Two long-held traditions about marriage proposals are “The man should propose” and “The woman changes her last name to her husband’s”. A study tried to examine liberal young Americans’ views on these traditional mindsets. Do the youngsters adhere to these traditional norms or do they reject them completely? Researchers at UC Santa Cruz, led by Rachael D. Robnett, a doctoral candidate in psychology, tried to explore the mindsets of emerging adults.
Robnett surveyed 277 undergraduates ages 17 to 26. The survey was conducted in 2009-2010 among psychology majors or intended majors and was limited to heterosexual students.The survey results were quite surprising, even to Robnett. She found that a substantial majority believes strongly that a man should propose marriage and a woman should take her husband’s name.
Not one of 136 men surveyed believed “I would definitely want my partner to propose” and not a single woman said she “would definitely want to propose.” 68.4 percent of men answered, “I would definitely want to propose. Sixty-six percent of women answered “I would definitely want my partner too propose.” Nearly 15 percent of men answered, “I would kind of want to propose” and 16.9 percent said, “It doesn’t matter who proposes.”
Among the 141 women surveyed, 22 percent said, “I would kind of want my partner to propose; 2.8 percent said they would “kind of want to propose” and 9.2 percent answered “it doesn’t matter.”
On the surname question, Robnett found 60.2 percent of women were “very willing” or “somewhat willing” to take their husband’s name. Only 6.4 percent were “very unwilling” and 11.3 percent “somewhat unwilling.” Another 22 percent answered “neither willing nor unwilling.”
“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,” she writes. “Even more surprising is that many participants overtly state that their preferences were driven by a desire to adhere to gender-role traditions.”
She found that this adherence to tradition is related to “benevolent sexism” — the assumption that “men should protect, cherish, and provide for women.”
The problem is that benevolent sexism contributes to power differences between women and men. The key mindset behind benevolent sexism is that women require men’s protection by virtue of being weaker gender. Benevolent sexism also supports traditional gender roles of women doing most of the childcare even if both partners go to work.
Read a original news report on the UCSC website.