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Women who refuse to take their husband’s surname make their partners appear ‘feminine’, finds study

More married women are choosing to keep their maiden name than ever before

Olivia Petter
Wednesday 22 November 2017 12:06 GMT
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My life is starting to feel like a real-life, less posh version of Four Weddings and a Funeral
My life is starting to feel like a real-life, less posh version of Four Weddings and a Funeral

Once upon a time it was considered custom for women to take their husband’s name after marrying.

These days, more women are choosing to keep their maiden name than ever before and according to new research, this affects the way their husband is perceived by others.

When a man’s wife rejects the concept of taking his surname, he is subsequently perceived as less masculine.

Conducted by researchers at the University of Nevada, the Sex Roles study examined people’s perceptions of men whose wives had chosen to keep their last name.

The authors carried out a series of online surveys on UK and US-based undergraduates who were asked to envisage a hypothetical scenario in which a heterosexual woman had decided to keep her surname after marrying.

They were then prompted to answer questions about the husband’s personality.

The results showed that these men were perceived as disempowered as a result of their wife’s decision.

"A woman's marital surname choice therefore has implications for perceptions of her husband's instrumentality, expressivity, and the distribution of power in the relationship," explains lead author Rachael Robnett.

"Our findings indicate that people extrapolate from marital surname choices to make more general inferences about a couple's gender-typed personality traits."

The number of women choosing to keep their maiden names is rising, according to a Google Consumer Survey conducted by The Upshot.

Previous studies have shown that women who make such a decision are also perceived differently.

They are generally described as more ambitious, assertive and powerful - terms that Robnett's team concludes are typically ascribed to men.

According to Robnett, people who make such assumptions are unable to let go of traditional gender roles and can be described as “hostile sexists”.

"We know from prior research that people high in hostile sexism respond negatively to women who violate traditional gender roles," she explained.

"Our findings show that they also apply stereotypes to non-traditional women's husbands."

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