ISTM that men are more commonly referred to by their surnames as compared to women

This applies to both professional settings and also social, e.g. a group of guys might refer to each other by their surnames, while with women it’s relatively rare.

I’ve even seen examples where wives refer to their own husbands by their surnames (imperfect example here.

Is this correct, or do others perceive things differently?

And if it is correct, then why would that be?

I can think of two possible explanations. 1) women more commonly change their surnames on marriage, so it’s less integral to their identity. 2) using a surname is colder and women go for a more personal connection (this would apply more to social than professional situations, but perhaps the latter is a spillover from the former).

I think it might have to do with gender bias and sexism. It’s easier to dismiss a Brenda than a Dr. Miller.

  1. It’s a lingering effect of male dominance in arenas where being formal has been considered more important, combined with the lingering effect of women in formal settings losing their identity to be “Mrs. Husband’s Full name”.

And even in informal settings there are strong elements of the past that restrict change. In informal male use of surnames it’s not infrequent in colloquial forms some so common that they are standardized Jonesy, Smithy, etc. A woman can have the surname Jones or Smith, but “Smithy” is assumed to be a man, so few women get that nickname, which preserved the association with males.

I disagree that referring to people by their last names is or ever was more formal. “Mr. Jones” is formal. “Jones” is not formal at all.

I wasn’t saying it is, I’m saying the informal use is an offshoot of the formal. The Old Boys network using surnames in informal settings for instance was surely originally a result of having built those networks in school and business settings where the surnames were used in formal address.

There may also be something that referring to a last name defaults to the man in a couple. Yes, that is sexist.

I have a good friend that everyone, including his wife, refers to and addresses by his last name. I don’t know why.

I think it’s not so much that “Jones” is formal as it is that “Bob” is explicitly informal.

I am one of very, very few women I know, perhaps the only woman I know, who goes primarily by my surname–and even though that’s honestly what I prefer, half the adults I know still call me by my first name. Part of it is that as a teacher, I go by Ms. Surname a lot, and I don’t really like that: it’s too formal. I can’t really have students call me by my first name–that’s too informal. So Surname it is.

I also just like my Surname more than my first name: “Amanda” is very feminine, and while that’s not bad, I think it has connotations I don’t live up to or down to or whatever. It has never felt like my “real” name. My surname, on the other hand, is very unusual and very cool (IMHO). That’s largely why I kept it when I married.

But it takes a couple years for new members of the faculty to grok that I really do prefer that, and quite a few never do. If I get introduced to someone by someone who knows me by last name, it usually sticks. Outside of school and school-related, like with my son’s friends’ parents, I just go by my first name. Not worth explaining or trying.

My husband calls me “Mandy”, the name I used when we met. At this point, only he and my family and very old friends use it. I call him by a diminutive of his last name, ironically.

But yeah, I think surnames are coded as somewhat masculine, and it’s vanishingly rare in my experience (and I pay attention) for a woman to go by her bare surname preferentially.

I don’t know anyone, male or female, who goes by their last name socially. However, I know lots of people , both male and female who go by their bare surnames professionally. That’s because of the specific profession I’m in and I think it’s for a couple of related reasons. One is that many of the people I encounter are officers of some type ( corrections. police, probation and so on) and those are historically male-dominated jobs. The other is that many officers don’t want people to know their full names, so they call each other by their last names - if my coworkers exclusively call me “Jones”, lots of the people I encounter will never find out my full name.

My WAG is that it started as a military thing (members are often addressed by either rank or last name). Historically, there have been way more men in the military than women. After each world war, thousands of men left the military and started working at companies (and having sons)…voila.

My guess would be that it’s an offshoot of high school sports or similar groups. I don’t think I would refer to someone by their surname unless it was a part of their high school identity, and even most of those have been lost over time.

I would say, guys overall are more likely to refer to someone using a nickname and a surname is probably the most popular nickname.

Another possible factor: certain male given names are extremely common. Who hasn’t ever been in a room with multiple Johns, Jameses, Roberts, Michaels, Davids, or Williams (or some variation of each).

I’ve encountered many situations, in both professional and personal life, where other men in the room had the same first name so the usual options are either someone has to pick a variant to go by, or “first name, last initial,” or just surnames.

My women’s studies teacher liked to point out that women do not HAVE last names of their own. (Or at least it is one interesting and perspective-shifting way to look at it). They use their Dad’s last name before marriage. It isn’t theirs to keep. Because they discard it and shift to using their husband’s last name, which isn’t theirs in a permanent way either. So for women a “last name” is the name of their current male owner.

That’s obviously only applicable to women who actually do change their names on marriage (or who do in fact get married for that matter), but it’s a startling reminder of the mindset of the culture from which our surname practices arose. And it remains true that a woman doesn’t glance at her last name and recognize it as hers, her mom’s, her mom’s moms’, and so on back in time. Modern practices in a somewhat post-patriarchal world may exist but when you stare backwards you get the history lesson pretty quickly. And it tells female people that last names are not about them.

That’s not at all how I feel about my surname.

When I’m in a room with more than one person who share a given name, the shared name is usually either “Grace” or “Sophie”. To be sure, this is generational, but a few decades ago, it might instead have been “Megan”.

Now, in a room with a wide variety of ages, collisions might be more common for the men, because the popular male names seem to be more stable with time. But how often do you have social circles with a wide range of ages?

I am clearly “guilty” of the described behavior at work and this would likely be one of my explanations. My immediate colleagues consist of, roughly, 12 people – four females, eight males. Two pairs of males share a first name. One additional male shares a first name with a since-departed teammate. (None of the females shares a name with a current or recent employee). So, as a matter of clarity, I refer to five of the males by their last names.

(I also have a very common first name and developed a habit of referring to myself in a lot of professional settings by my very uncommon last name. But it’s certainly not how I am predominantly addressed).

My other explanation would be athletics: when I was on a boys’ athletic teams, we were referred to (and referred to each other) by last name and some of that stuck. Although that may just be a symptom of the broader issue.

My social group has an inordinate number of Mikes, Daves and Steves. They either go by their surname or a nickname. In person, I usually call them by their first names but they are always referred to by the other, for simplicity’s sake. There are also two Debbies. Both have nicknames and everyone uses those for them all the time. I can’t imagine referring to them by their surnames. And in work situations, it seems men with the same name get referred to as “Surname” and women as “First name, Last initial”.

Me either- my name is my name and maybe I might think of it as my parents’ name or my siblings name but I never think of it as my father’s and his father’s and so on. I doubt very much that my brother does either.

The custodial staff at the school where I work address me by my last name, just like they do each other. They don’t do that with anyone else, so I take it a sign that they’re comfortable with me.

It’s obvious none of you ever went to Catholic school during the Baby Boom era. There were so many girls named Mary, Mary Ann, Mary Beth, Mary Clare, Mary Diane, etc., that both the teachers and the students defaulted to using surnames for everyone, regardless of gender.

As @Misnomer said, there’s a military component there. I once had a coworker who had been in the army. Everybody else was on a first-name basis, including the bosses, but this guy explicitly requested that he be called by his last name.