A new study suggests that the husbands of women who decide to keep their surnames are perceived as weak. Let’s get science-y:
“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,” Rachael Robnett, researcher at the University of Nevada, says in a news release. “Our findings indicate that people extrapolate from marital surname choices to make more general inferences about a couple’s gender-typed personality traits.”
Robnett’s team used data from a trio of surveys carried out in the United States and Britain, which found that men whose wives keep their maiden name are more often described using personality traits typically reserved for women. They’re also perceived has having less power in the marriage!
“We know from prior research that people high in hostile sexism respond negatively to women who violate traditional gender roles,” said Robnett. “Our findings show that they also apply stereotypes to nontraditional women’s husbands.”
Researchers suggest hostile reactions offer insights into the ways gender role expectations continue to reinforce power structures. “The marital surname tradition is more than just a tradition,” Robnett said. “It reflects subtle gender-role norms and ideologies that often remain unquestioned despite privileging men.”