TIME beauty

A Scientific Explanation For Our Obsession With Sexy Soccer Players

Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristia
Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo leaves the field after the second leg of the Spanish Cup quarter-final "El clasico" football match Barcelona vs Real Madrid at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on January 25, 2012. Luis Gene—AFP/Getty Images

It's not just a beautiful game. There are biological reasons so many people prefer footballers over other athletes.

The U.S. team has been knocked out of the World Cup, but that doesn’t mean Americans will stop watching the tournament. If the dozens of hottest soccer players lists on sites like BuzzFeed, Jezebel and Elle are any indication, Americans have finally fallen for international “footballers” like Cristiano Ronaldo (right) who have been global stars for years. The ogling has become so pervasive that writers are debating whether it’s okay to objectify male athletes.

This isn’t your average love affair with the athlete of the moment. It’s a full fledged crush. In the graph below, you can see that Americans have searched “hottest soccer players” more in the past 12 months than they have searched for “hottest football players,” even though the viewership for American football dwarfs that of soccer. (Queries have obviously spiked in the past month during the World Cup which has gotten unprecedented attention in the U.S. this year.) Search terms “hottest basketball players,” “hottest baseball players” and “hottest hockey players” had so little traffic in the U.S. that they didn’t even show up on the chart.


So why are Americans swooning over soccer players more than athletes in sports that are more popular? TIME asked evolutionary biologists, psychologists and sports medicine experts to weigh in.

1. The evolutionary ideal

David Beckham on the cover of Elle UK Elle UK

Evolutionarily-speaking women are attracted to strength and characteristics associated with high testosterone production such as a more masculine face. But scientists are just beginning to discover that women are biologically programmed to be attracted to endurance as well. “Recent studies suggest that in our evolutionary past there has actually been strong selection on endurance performance,” says Erik Postma, a research scientist at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of Zurich. “Before the invention of spears, we would hunt by chasing down animals to exhaustion. Though we could not outsprint a zebra, over the course of many hours we could outrun it.”

Postma conducted a study in which he asked subjects to rate the attractiveness of the faces of various cyclists, and found that people rated the cyclists with highest endurance most attractive. This is good news for soccer players, who are not only strong but must cultivate endurance in order to survive games: soccer players run an average of seven miles per game, compared to the 2.5 run by basketball players and 1.2 run by receivers and cornerbacks in football (players in other positions run significantly less). “I think that unlike basketball and football players, soccer players might have the ideal combination of strength and endurance,” says Postma.

New York Jets v New England Patriots
Defensive Lineman Vince Wilfork #75 of New England Patriots on September 12, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Al Pereira—Getty Images

Our evolutionary biology then dictates what our culture sees as the ideal male form. “[The soccer player’s body] is probably a little closer to the average person’s mental image of what beauty looks like,” says Dr. David Geier, a sports medicine expert and orthopedic surgeon. “When you look at ancient Greek and Roman sculptures of the ideal person, they look more like what soccer players are. They’re pretty regularly proportioned: they don’t have huge upper bodies and small lower bodies, or vice versa.”

2. A more relatable body type

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Costa Rica’s forward Joel Campbell celebrates at the end of the round of 16 football match between Costa Rica and Greece at Pernambuco Arena in Recife during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 29, 2014. RONALDO SCHEMIDT—AFP/Getty Images

“When you look at the skills needed for soccer, it’s speed and endurance. It’s not upper body power. It’s not the ability to tackle people, so you don’t need the shape of a body that an American football player would need,” says Geier.

Soccer players, unlike many American athletes, are muscular without being bulky. Basketball players and football players must build up their upper bodies for shooting, passing and pushing one another around. Hockey players must build up their legs for strength and speed on the ice. Soccer players have a much more even muscle distribution. They’re toned, but not in an exaggerated way.

Los Angeles Lakers v San Antonio Spurs - Game Two
Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2013 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on April 24, 2013 in San Antonio, Texas. Ronald Martinez—Getty Images

“There’s probably a perception difference when you have a seven-foot athlete compared to soccer players, who are pretty normal height—5’8″ to 6’2″,” says Geier. It’s easy to imagine your boyfriend running every day and slimming down than to imagine him growing an extra foot and pumping iron until his arm muscles swell to twice their size. That’s why many people find a body like Costa Rica soccer player Joel Campbell’s (in white shorts above), which has muscle evenly distributed across his 5’10” frame, more attractive than that of NBA player Dwight Howard (in Lakers jersey above), whose shoulder and upper arm muscles are intimidatingly large. Plus, Howard is 6’11″—a less relatable height.

3. Showing emotion on the field

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Costa Rica’s defender Waylon Francis (L) and Costa Rica’s midfielder Jose Miguel Cubero celebrate after winning a match with Greece during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 29, 2014. ARIS MESSINIS—AFP/Getty Images

Soccer players are notoriously more emotional during play than other athletes—so much so that a recent article in the New Yorker examined why Americans are exasperated by soccer’s dramatics. Players flop down on the ground when hit and roll around as if they’ve just been shot in the gut. When they congratulate each other, they don’t just high five, they leap into one another’s arms, scream and weep. After scoring a goal, players will tear off their shirt and run in circles. A goalie who let in a shot will collapse to his knees and wail.

It turns out these seemingly overdramatic (one might even say feminine) gestures are arousing to the opposite sex. A 2011 study found that men are perceived to be more attractive by heterosexual women when they exhibit emotional displays of pride and shame. In the way a peacock spreads his tail, men strut after victory to seem more attractive.

“This could explain part of what’s going on with male soccer players,” says Jessica Tracy, an associate professor of psychology at British Columbia who led the study. “If they show pride displays after success, and even shame displays after failure, this will likely increase their attractiveness—at least to North American women.”

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Argentina’s forward and captain Lionel Messi (L) celebrates with teammates Argentina’s midfielder Angel Di Maria (C) and Argentina’s defender Marcos Rojo (R) after scoring during a match between Nigeria and Argentina on June 25, 2014,during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. JEWEL SAMAD—AFP/Getty Images

Emotional displays also increase a player’s relatability. “I think you get a better sense of their personalities,” says Geier. “There’s no helmet or cap like in football or hockey or baseball. Seeing them react to what’s going on on the field—it helps fans forge a relationship that you might not get with an athlete in pads and a helmet.”

4. Uniforms—on and off

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Chile’s forward Alexis Sanchez reacts after missing a shot on goal during a football match between Brazil and Chile at the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 28, 2014. ODD ANDERSEN—AFP/Getty Images

Let’s face it: soccer players like to show their abs. Even when they’re not tearing off their jerseys to celebrate a goal, soccer uniforms are more revealing than others. Hockey and football pads conceal most of the athlete’s body and head. Basketball uniforms are baggy, and baseball uniforms aren’t exactly the most flattering wear. Soccer jerseys better display abs, arms, legs and bottoms than gear in any other major sport, as demonstrated by the variety of BuzzFeed’s lists on the topic, which include “bootyful butts” and “match the six-pack to the soccer player.”

“Uniforms and clothes in general are used to enhance desirable features,” says Postma. “I did for example notice that the shirts [in soccer] have gotten tighter, showing off their muscular upper bodies much better.”

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France’s forward Olivier Giroud addresses a press conference at the theater in Ribeirao Prato on June 10, 2014, prior to the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. FRANCK FIFE—AFP/Getty Images

The other reason there’s such a global obsession with soccer players is that there’s such a wide sample selection. The World Cup brings together hundreds of players from all over the world. Everyone has someone to root for—or ogle. Sheer variety has its appeal, and when there are that many men who spend all day, every day running, there’s bound to be at least a few players that capture the attention of the masses, like French forward Olivier Giroud (above), who tops many of the “hottest” lists.

And for Americans, who only see these players on ESPN once every four years and do not have as firm a grasp on the rosters, Postma believes that focusing on attractiveness might be “a way to make a sport that you otherwise don’t have much affinity with a bit more interesting.”

 

TIME Internet

Man v. Food’s Adam Richman Begs Forgiveness After ‘#Thinspiration’ Controversy

"Grab a razor blade and draw a bath. I doubt anyone will miss you," Adam Richman wrote to a critic on social media

The Travel Channel has announced it will indefinitely postpone a new show featuring host Adam Richman, star of the Travel Channel’s Man v. Food, after the TV personality made some insensitive comments about dieting in an Instagram post.

Last month, Richman posted a picture of himself on Instagram showing off his new body. The TV host—who has made a name for himself taking massive food challenges like eating a yard-long bratwurst or 72-ounce steaks—dropped 70 pounds over the course of 2013 (and more since). “Had ordered this suit from a Saville Row tailor over a year ago. Think I’m gonna need to take it in a little,” he wrote in the Instagram post, adding the hashtag #thinspiration.

Whether Richman knew it or not, #thinspiration has earned a reputation in pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia circles as a slogan encouraging eating disorders. In 2012, Instagram (following in the footsteps of Pinterest and Tumblr) banned thinspiration or “thinspo” photos meant to inspire others to lose weight in unhealthy ways from the social media site. Though many of these photos were aimed at women, more recently health professionals have worried about eating and workout disorders in men, who seek not only to lose weight but gain muscle in unhealthy ways.

The backlash to Richman’s comments was swift: many were offended by a celebrity’s use of #thispiration and ridiculed him. The TV host defended himself, writing,:

Maybe you’ll acknowledge that just because someone is on TV, they are no less worthy of human kindness, respect, forgiveness or patience…Give me a [expletive] break. If anyone acts like a [four letter word] I’ll call them one. It’s not misogyny, it’s calling a spade a spade….if my use of the hashtag offended you, it was unintentional & for that I’m sorry.

But he didn’t stop there. After another wave of negative comments, Richman wrote to one of his critics: “Grab a razor blade and draw a bath. I doubt anyone will miss you.” The exchange has been captured by screen grabs on XOJane.

Richman later tweeted an apology, which has since been deleted. “Yes. I’ve responded to internet hate recently with vile words directed at those hating me. I am sorry, I should know better & will do better,” he tweeted, according to screen grabs captured by Jezebel. He followed with another (now deleted) tweet: “In real life, if you say stuff you regret in anger, you cool down, apologize & move on.If you’re a celeb on social media – it becomes a blog.” Richman claimed on Instagram that he did not know the history of #thinspiration.

Richman released yet another mea culpa on Good Morning America Tuesday morning, saying: “I’ve long struggled with my body image and have worked very hard to achieve a healthy weight. I’m incredibly sorry to everyone I’ve hurt.”

Following the controversy, the Travel Channel has postponed Richman’s new show Man Finds Food, which was supposed to premiered on July 2. The channel has yet to announce a new date for the show.

TIME beauty

Miss Florida Just Lost Her Crown Because of a Voting Error

Beauty queen dethroned due to "error in the tabulation process"

Elizabeth Fechtel was crowned Miss Florida on June 21, but enjoyed her title for only a few days before it was revoked Friday due to the discovery of an “error in the tabulation process.

First runner-up Victoria Cowen was given the crown instead after an independent audit and review of the ballots revealed that she had actually earned the highest score, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

The pageant coordinators did not cite any specific details about the error in their official statement. The family was told that “in the last 15 seconds of the time allotted to vote, [one judge] drew lines to reverse his first vote,” mother Dixie Fechtel wrote in an email to the Times.

[Tampa Bay Times]

TIME beauty

This Is What the Same Woman Looks Like Photoshopped in Different Countries

Digital artists from around the world interpret the same photo based on their local and personal beauty ideals.

We’ve become accustomed to seeing photoshopped images in media. But journalist Esther Honig decided to do something a little different. She wanted to conduct a little experiment in beauty ideals so she sent the same picture of herself to Photoshop artists in 25 different countries with a simple request: make me beautiful. What she got back was 25 different versions of herself: The artists changed everything from her eye color to her makeup to her skin tone.

The recently released “My project, Before & After,” examines how these standards vary across cultures on a global level,” Honig wrote on her website.

It should be noted, however, that the results of her experiment don’t necessarily embody the typical attractiveness standards for an entire culture or country. The images reflect the tastes and skill level of each of the photoshop artists Honig commissioned. The U.S. example, for instance, does not look anything like what you’ll see in most fashion magazines or ads, but it is distinct from the images from other countries.

“[All of the photos] are intriguing and insightful in their own right; each one is a reflection of both the personal and cultural concepts of beauty that pertain to their creator,” she writes. “Photoshop allows us to achieve our unobtainable standards of beauty, but when we compare those standards on a global scale, achieving the ideal remains all the more illusive.”

What is clear from the wide range of results is that there is no singular definition of what is beautiful. The standard varies according not only to country but to culture and individual preferences. TIME has gathered just some of the examples.

Read next: Here’s What 20 Famous Women Think About Feminism

TIME beauty

Study: Kate Middleton Has a Perfect Nose

Duchess Of Cambridge Kate Middleton
Kate Middleton tours Bletchley Park on June 18 in Bletchley, England. WPA Pool—Getty Images

And so do Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale

Celebrities like the Duchess of Cambridge and Scarlett Johansson have aided a team of plastic surgeons on a long and fraught journey: the quest for the perfect nose.

A team of U.S. plastic surgeons submitted digital portraits of young white women to focus groups and online social networks made up of people in the same age group and asked them to rate the attractiveness of the images based on previously determined attractiveness scales. The result? The ideal nose for a woman in that demographic is slightly upturned at an angle of 106 degrees.

Kate Middleton as well as actresses Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel, and Kate Beckinsale were all found to fit this beauty ideal.

“Throughout history artists and scholars have been engrossed in the pursuit of capturing what constitutes beauty,” said the study’s author Dr. Omar Ahmed. He also called past attempts to find the perfect nose “elusive and ongoing for decades.” Of course beauty standards and ideals have changed over the centuries and are often different for each ethnicity or global region. The 18th century’s perfect nose, might just be this year’s least appealing schnoz.

Why did the surgeons only look at ideals for white women between the ages of 18-25? Because there’s a lot of data to work with. The study reports that this population is the most heavily studied in the rhinoplasty (aka nose job) literature.

The study affirms past approximations of the ideal “nasal tip rotation and projection” as far as plastic surgery clients are concerned. “There is a range of rotation that’s usually applied [in rhinoplasties], which is 90 to 100 degrees for men and 95 to 110 degrees for women,” said Dr. Charles East, of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons. “This study has ended up somewhere in-between.”

 

TIME beauty

They’ve Created a Monster: The ‘Perfect Female Celebrity’

Enjoy!

The ‘Perfect Female Celebrity’ will haunt your dreams.

This franken-starlet, composed of “perfect” celeb body parts Photoshopped together, is actually an advertisement for Botched, E!’s new show about people going under the knife to correct previous cosmetic surgery catastrophes. (It even has a reality show pedigree: Dr. Terry Dubrow and Dr. Paul Nassif , two husbands from the Real Housewives franchise, are the star doctors.)

The composite image has Blake Lively’s legs, Rihanna’s abs, Sofia Vergara’s boobs, Gabrielle Union’s arms, Jessica Alba’s smile, Carrie Underwood’s hair and Mila Kunis’ eyes. It’s not the first time we’ve created a crazy composite: Witness the results of a 2013 survey of men and women’s idea of the perfect female face.

And sure, in theory, we might all wish we had those individual parts, but that doesn’t make this piece of Photoshop excess any less frightening. After all, if there’s one thing we don’t need is another unattainable goal.

[h/t Jezebel]

 

TIME skin care

3 Ways to Exfoliate Without Using Microbeads

Honey dripping off Dripper
Getty Images

Illinois is banning microbeads in facewash. Here's what to use instead

News about Illinois’ ban on facewashes that contain microbeads raise serious environmental concerns that are being heeded by a number of states. But for the vain among us, it begs the question: What to use instead of microbeads if you want that squeaky-clean feeling?

First, it bears a reminder that aggressively scrubbing your face is not a good idea, both because it can cause tiny tears in the surface of your skin—making it prone to infection and inflammation—and also because you don’t want to disrupt the skin’s acid mantle, which is there to keep in moisture and keep out pathogens.

There are thousands of products that claim to safely remove dead skin cells, but sometimes, simple is best. Here are three easy ways to clean your face that won’t break the bank, expose you to harsh ingredients or ruin your face.

Make Your Own, With Honey

Honey has long been a mainstay in DIY natural beauty, and for good reason. Honey is naturally antimicrobial, which makes it an effective cleanser on its own. You can rub a tablespoon between your hands and will find it gets nice and slippery—the consistency of a fancy face wash. It’s also humectant, which means it attracts and retains moisture and can help keep your skin dewy—something a lot of harsh exfoliating scrubs cannot claim to do—and it contains gluconic acid, a mild acid that is considered benign by public health experts.

A recent review in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology concluded that: “Honey is particularly suitable as a dressing for wounds and burns … dandruff … In cosmetic formulations, it exerts emollient, humectant, soothing, and hair conditioning effects, regulates pH and prevents pathogen infections.”

Some natural beauty mavens like to mix their honey with baking soda—which is something you want to be careful with because it’s quite alkaline. Your skin’s pH is widely thought to be around 5.5 (though a 2006 study placed it closer to 5), and it has what’s called an acid mantle on it. That’s an important barrier to keep intact, both to protect against infections and to keep in moisture. Try honey on its own, and if you want that scrubby feeling, mix in just a pinch of baking soda.

Use a Konjac Sponge

You could spend upwards of $150 on an electronic face scrubber, or you could drop $11 and get yourself a reusable sponge made, as the name suggests, of fibers from the root of a konjac plant. It comes rock hard, but put it under warm water and it softens into a springy dome that you can use with or without a cleanser to slough off dead skin cells. It’s gentle enough that you can use it daily. Some brands make konjac sponges infused with things like charcoal, which is a natural detoxifier for the skin. You could go that route if you want to, but I prefer the basic one. One konjac sponge will last you six weeks of twice-daily use.

Use A Gentle Peel With Lactic Acid

There are two main ways to get rid of the dead skin cells that dull the look of the surface of your skin. There are manual exfoliants—like scrubs and konjac sponges and face cloths—and there are chemical ones. The latter use acids to dissolve the material that keeps skin cells bound together, making dead cells easier to remove. (There is some evidence that some acids also support cell turnover. Cell turnover slows as we age, which is why these acids are also touted as antiagers.)

These kinds of exfoliants can be natural or synthetic, and can cause irritation in some people. There are tons of different acids in products on the market—well known ones include alpha hydroxy acid, lactic acid and glycolic acid. Lactic acid appears to improve water barrier properties, which helps the skin retain moisture, while also being an exfoliant. You should not use products containing acids in the morning because they can increase sensitivity to the sun. And always wear SPF on your face, whether you’re using a scrub or not.

TIME skincare

Know What’s In Your Face Wash: Why Illinois Banned Microbeads

Superparamagnetic microbeads: the monosized Dynabeads
Superparamagnetic microbeads Kunnskap

Illinois is the first state to ban tiny plastic microbeads in cosmetics like face wash, which damage marine life

Exfoliating microbeads, which are tiny bits of plastic, in your face wash are causing some serious damage to your skin and environment, and states are starting to crack down.

This month, Illinois banned the sale of cosmetics containing plastic microbeads, becoming the first state to legally take a strong stance against what researchers are calling a serious environmental problem. The plastic waste caused by the microbeads, which are not filtered out during sewage treatment, are damaging water ecosystems. A report recent published by the U.N. Environment Programme says plastic waste causes $13 billion in damage every year to marine life.

Since the beads are so small, fish and other marine life easily swallow them, causing DNA damage and even death. A 2008 study from UK researchers showed that the plastics remained inside mussels for 48 days. Last year, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Superior reported at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society that there were 1,500 to 1.7 million plastic particles per square mile in the Great Lakes.

The Illinois ban is encouraging for other states pushing similar laws, and the fact that Illinois’ new ban had industry players on board means cooperation is possible in other regions, too. “This was a cooperative effort with the industry in order to address our and their concerns,” says Jennifer Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council. “In the end, we were trying to get something that would pass. Other states should try for more stringent standards.”

Walling says she’s happy with the results, though she wishes the timeline was shorter. Manufacturers have a phase out period between 2017-2019.

Other states like New York, California and Ohio are trying to pass similar bans. California wants to allow biodegradable beads, and New York lawmakers, which worked with plastic-fighting group 5 Gyres, have so far received positive response to their legislation. Earlier this summer, New Jersey democrat U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. introduced a bill that would make a nationwide ban possible in 2018.

Microbeads can also be vicious on your skin. While the little beads help deeply cleanse the pores, they can also cause tears if used too roughly. But if you love the feeling of rubbing dead skin off your face (that’s what they’re for)—there are some natural versions of face wash that use ingredients like oatmeal instead.

As TIME reported in May, companies appear to be open to finding substitutes. And in 2012, consumer goods company Unilever committed to making all of its products plastic-free by 2015. Big cosmetic companies like L’Oréal have also pulled away from microbeads.

Walling says she has been contacted by several groups in other states trying to outlaw microbeads, and she thinks it will only take about two more states to pass similar bans for the industry effect to be felt nationwide. “There’s definitely a lot of interest from many states,” says Walling. “Industry wants to address this issue. They have interest in getting involved.”

TIME beauty

Illinois Bans Cosmetics Containing Microbeads

Great Lakes Plastic Pollution
In this July 2013 photo provided by the State University of New York at Fredonia, Sherri Mason, right, a New York environmental scientist who led a research team studying microplastics in the Great Lakes, examines a trawling device used to collect plastic “microbeads” from the water's surface with University of Buffalo student Shayne McKay AP

Those tiny little beads in your exfoliating cleanser? They're killing the marine environment

Illinois has become the first American state to ban cosmetics containing microplastics. The move has been taken in response to growing concern over the marine damage caused by plastic waste, which a report published recently by the U.N. Environment Programme puts at $13 billion or more annually.

Among the products that will be removed from Illinois shelves are several brands of exfoliating face wash. While natural versions of this popular product use the likes of oatmeal or ground kernels as an exfoliant, cheap commercial varieties use nonbiodegradable plastic beads, known as microbeads. One average-sized tube can hold thousands of them.

Because of their size — less than a millimeter across — microbeads are not sifted out from wastewater during the sewage-treatment process, but instead end up being released into large bodies of water, like the Great Lakes, where they cause irreparable harm. One California-based institute found almost 470,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometer of the Great Lakes, and most of them (81%) were microbeads. Fish and birds think the beads are food and end up eating them, often with lethal consequences.

New York, Ohio and California are expected to follow Illinois’s lead. According to a report released by New York State attorney general Eric Schneiderman, 19 tons of microbeads are released into New York wastewater annually. New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone meanwhile introduced a proposal in mid-June, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2014, that would ban the creation and sale of products that contain microbeads nationwide by 2018. “By phasing out the use of plastic microbeads and transitioning to non-synthetic alternatives, we can protect U.S. waters before it’s too late,” Pallone wrote.

In the meantime, consumers wanting to help reduce the impact of this insidious pollutant can download an app called Beat the Microbead, which allows you to check whether or not a product contains the miniscule plastic balls.

TIME Parenting

This Father’s Day Ad Will Make You Want to Call Your Dad Right Now

Dove reminds you of all those times you needed your dad

This Father’s Day, Dove is tugging at your heartstrings. Men+Care, the brand’s grooming line for men, launched the campaign Monday in an effort to celebrate the real role dads play in their kids’ lives.

It’s the male equivalent of Dove’s successful “Real Beauty” campaign, which some have criticized for using female empowerment to sell products.

But the beauty brand says this particular feel-good campaign is based on real data, according to Adweek. Dove surveyed 1,000 dads ages 25-54 and found that 75% of fathers feel like they’re responsible for their child’s emotional well-being. But only 20% of those surveyed said that aspect of their parenting duty is reflected in the media.

So instead of showing dads throwing a baseball or building the crib or laying down the law, Dove edited quick cuts of “calls for dad,” showing how fathers come running when you need help, comfort you when you’re scared and bring a smile to your face when you’re down.

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