Marriage Traditions And Benevolent Sexism
January 17, 2013

Females And Males Retain Traditional Perspectives On Marriage Proposals

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

A recent study completed by scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) discovered that females and male tend to stick to traditional views of marriage proposals.

The team of investigators delved into the question on personal preferences for marriage traditions and found an overwhelming number of young adults, both males and females, stated that they preferred that the man in the relationship ask for the female´s hand in marriage. A significant majority of women who participated in the experiment also noted that, if they married, they would change their last name to match their husband´s.

"I was surprised at how strong the preference was," remarked Rachael D. Robnett, a UCSC doctoral student studying psychology, in a prepared statement.

The findings on the participants, which included undergraduates whose ages ranged between 17 to 26 years of age, were recently featured in the January issue of the Journal of Adolescent Research.

Robnett stated that she was surprised by the number of people who responded with traditional viewpoints on engagement and marriage roles; 68.4 percent of the males reported that they “would definitely want to propose” while 66 percent of women reported that they “would definitely want my partner to propose.” In addition, almost 15 percent of the males and 22 percent of women surveyed said that they “would kind of want to propose.” There were only 16.9 percent males and 9.2 percent females who said “it doesn´t matter who proposes.”

"Given the prevalence of liberal attitudes among students at the university where data collection took place it is striking that so many participants held traditional preferences," wrote Robnett in the statement. "Even more surprising is that many participants overtly state that their preferences were driven by a desire to adhere to gender-role traditions."

Regarding changing surnames, Robnett discovered that 60.2 percent of the females surveyed were “very willing” or “somewhat willing” to take on their husband´ last name. Very few, 6.4 percent, stated that they were “very unwilling” and 11.3 percent noted that they were “somewhat unwilling.” There was another 22 percent who responded that they were “either willing or unwilling” to change their last name. She believes that the traditional views are related to “benevolent sexism,” where there is an assumption to continue traditional gender roles.

"On the surface it looks positive," explained Robnett in the statement. "The problem is that benevolent sexism contributes to power differentials between women and men. The mindset underlying benevolent sexism is that women need men´s protection because they are the weaker gender. Also, people who endorse benevolent sexism tend to support traditional gender roles such as the belief that women should do most of the childcare even if both partners work."

As a result, Robnett believes that “benevolent sexism” may be an overarching challenge.

"Both men and women are raised to believe that aspects of benevolent sexism are desirable; it´s usually viewed as politeness or chivalry," concluded Robnett in the statement. "This makes it hard for people to challenge, which is unfortunate because research shows it often does a disservice to women."