EDITORIAL: Combating elitism

BY DAILY PRINCETONIAN EDITORIAL BOARD

In the aftermath of the publication of Ms. Patton’s letter to the editor, there has been extensive media response to the sentiments she expressed. While commentators have largely focused on Ms. Patton’s advice for young women who attend Princeton, the Board feels that there is a second issue in the letter that has not been given adequate attention by the national media. Specifically, while the Board is concerned by several of Ms. Patton’s contentions, we are particularly troubled by the elitism implied in the letter. Ms. Patton’s letter implicitly assumes that those who have attended Princeton are inherently better than others in society. Though many within our community reject her views on marriage, we believe her view of the superiority of Princetonians is far more common among the student body.

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OPINION: A little nicer

BY BARBARA ZHAN
Columnist

The cartoon that ran on Monday parodying Susan Patton’s opinion letter easily summarized the most socially indicative part of her piece: Titled “A universe of women,” it depicted a male stick figure surrounded by multiple beckoning women. This was in response to Patton’s statement that “the universe of women” her junior son can marry is “limitless.” Although she seems to praise Princeton women throughout the piece, reminding them of their “soaring intellect” and saying that women have higher standards for their significant others than men do, it’s little statements like “universe of women” sprinkled throughout her essay, that show us exactly why the status of women is not where it should be by now.

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OPINION: Making misogyny the problem

BY LAUREN PRASTIEN
Columnist

On April 1st, Fox News Insider’s Megyn Kelly leapt onto the bandwagon of newscasters attempting to parse out some logic from Susan A. Patton’s argument in her now infamous Letter to the Editor. During the interview, Kelly empathized with Patton’s call for Princeton women to find their husbands during their time at the University, citing that intelligence “doesn’t necessarily turn out to be a ‘turn-on’ to some men.” As to substantiate that claim, Kelly referenced comedienne and Princeton alumna Nikki Muller’s Youtube hit “The Ivy League Hustle,” which Patton first referenced herself in her Huffington Post Blog response on March 31. In Patton’s words, “The Ivy League Hustle” does not “address how unsatisfying it is for exceptionally well-educated women to be with men who are not their intellectual equal.” Perhaps not in quite the way Patton does, but Muller does address how dissatisfying it is to be with jerks who are her intellectual equal. Who, by the way, still don’t treat her well.

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Thanks, but no thanks

BY LAUREN SHANLEY
Class of 2012

Dear Ms. Patton,

I’ve dated your son and, thanks, but no thanks.

No, I haven’t literally dated your son, but I’ve dated Princeton (male) undergrads, both while in school and while a graduate. What I’m about to say is going to anger a lot of people moms: Just because a young man attended Princeton does not make him a good husband. 

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SPECIAL SECTION: Responses to Susan Patton ’77

On March 29, The Daily Princetonian published a Letter to the Editor from Susan Patton, alumna and President of the Class of 1977.  In her letter, titled “Advice for the young women of Princeton: the daughters I never had,” she advises Princeton undergraduate women to “find a husband on campus.” She argues that Princeton is the best place for young Princetonian women to find partners who are as intelligent and accomplished as they are — “you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you,” she writes.

This letter has since generated nationwide response and debate. Should finding a husband be a priority for women in college? Should a Princeton woman’s main aim be to marry her “intellectual equal,” and is it more likely, as Patton argues, to find that person at Princeton? And what is the message to women who don’t want to marry men — or marry at all?

Patton’s letter is only the latest in an extensive and nuanced discussion of career-family balance and marriage in these pages and on this campus. Columnist Cameron Langford discussed how Princeton women could reconcile their desires to be “both a mother and a breadwinner,” opinion editor emerita Monica Greco suggested including extended family in child rearing to enable young parents to launch their careers, and guest contributor Margaret Fortney supported Princeton women who want to become stay-at-home mothers.  And given the breadth of passionate responses to Patton’s letter — both on campus and across the nation — it’s clear that our community is far from achieving consensus on these issues.

We hope to provide a forum for our campus to continue the conversation.

The Daily Princetonian asked for reactions to Patton’s letter — below are some of the responses we received from alumni, students, faculty and parents.

Sarah Schwartz ’15
Opinion Editor

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Ambition and all

BY HALEY WHITE
Class of 2012

My parents met at Princeton as undergraduates about thirty-years ago and got married six-days after my mother marched through FitzRandolph Gate for graduation. Eighteen-years ago, they got a divorce.

I don’t fault my parents for their union—without it I wouldn’t exist. I also don’t fault them for their divorce—they handled it with great dignity and took pains to ensure that my brother and I would not be placed in the middle of their disagreements.

Having grown up in a fractured Princeton marriage, I was dismayed to read Susan Patton ‘77’s letter last week. One of the many lessons my parents’ relationship taught me was that the right person is not necessarily the man or woman who has the same academic credentials as you. The right person is the one with whom you feel comfortable building a life and making difficult personal decisions. Reducing the search for that person to an intellectual yardstick leads to poorly framed thinking about an institution that is so beautiful, fraught, and complex.

I also disliked Ms. Patton’s statement, “As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market.” It suggests that, before reaching out for a new accolade, a woman should stop and consider how much share that achievement will make her lose in the dating market—that, simply by attending Princeton, we have already limited ourselves to a boutique audience that we should not shrink any more.

What if I don’t want to change myself into someone who stops reaching? Is it really that absurd to hope someone will love me, ambition and all?

Sincerely,

Haley White ‘12
haleyelisawhite.wordpress.com

P.S. On a lighter note, I would like to correct a factual error in Ms. Patton’s piece: Heterosexual women need not limit themselves to undergraduates. There are many interesting, attractive men over at the Graduate College. If your personal life has hit a lull, go to the D Bar.

Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article contained an incomplete draft of this letter. The ‘Prince’ regrets the error. 

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: A recipe for a failed marriage?

BY CATHERINE TIEDEMANN MORRA ’77, ELIZABETH TIEDEMANN MAASS ’78 & CHARLOTTE TIEDEMANN PETERSEN ’82

As three Princeton alumnae — sisters, no less — married to three Princeton alumni, we feel uniquely qualified, and even compelled, to respond to Susan Patton’s Letter to the Editor.

Our parents, apparently, hit the trifecta. What was our secret? Was it our mother’s etiquette and decorum classes? Our father’s admonition to earn a return on his investment? Our own desire to make Reunions that much more fun?

Sarcasm aside, we are dismayed at Ms. Patton’s suggestion that finding your life’s partner can, or should, be orchestrated. It’s one thing to be open to finding that partner and quite another to set it as a goal. We were each obviously open to it – probably thanks to having had the good fortune to witness our parents’ healthy marriage — but we each married a man we met at Princeton, not a Princeton man.

Ms. Patton’s advice strikes us a recipe for a failed marriage.

Finally, we are embarrassed by her elitist tone and aggravated by her decision to identify herself as “President of the Class of 1977,” with its implication that she is speaking for the class. At least one of us can assure you that she is not.

Sincerely,
Catherine Tiedemann Morra ’77
Elizabeth Tiedemann Maass ’78
Charlotte Tiedemann Petersen ’82

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: What I would say to the young women of Princeton

(or any institution of higher education, for that matter … and precisely what I said to my daughter as she headed off to college — not Princeton)

BY PRISCILLA SMART SCHWARZENBACH
Class of 1977

Go off to college determined to get the best darn education you can. Take advantage of the great professors, get a taste of academic disciplines that are new to you, seek out interesting/diverse classmates, play a sport or an instrument, join a club or two and study what you love. Make the most of your time there and allow yourself to evolve. I would bet many of us wish we had done more.

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Why not?

BY NICOLE CLARKE
Class of 2009

I was quite taken aback by the online response to Ms. Patton’s letter. The public outcry seemed to tout every possible position from elitism to sexism to antifeminism to she-must-be-totally-crazy-ism. But, truth be told, there are a good very many Princeton women for whom the salient points of her argument are precisely spot on. Speaking from two positions — that of a young professional who is squarely focused on building her career, and that of a woman who would ultimately like to find an appropriate partner — I count myself as one of them.

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