OPINION: Letter to the Editor: March 31, 2013

Director, Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies
Annan Professor in English
Professor, Theatre Program

Susan Patton is, of course, entitled to her opinion and to her priorities. And as a 1977 female alum, she was among Princeton’s gender pioneers.

But I regret that her rhetoric encourages current Princeton students toward a version of higher education that was popular in the 1950s which assumed – to everyone’s detriment – that female students enrolled only to find husbands – that is, for an Mrs. degree.

Ms. Patton might have used her time with our students to urge them to practice the work-life balance that hounds so many of us – men and women – as we struggle to find a comfortable equilibrium between professions we love and friends and family we adore. That dilemma formed the crux of the inspiring conversation between Wilson School professor Anne-Marie Slaughter and President Shirley Tilghman, which Ms. Patton attended but didn’t seem to fully hear.

Instead, Ms. Patton suggests Princeton women consider their four years of higher education as a competition ground for finding a husband. She assumes that all Princeton undergraduate women want to marry men; that they want to marry at all; and that they don’t have different priorities for how to organize their professional and personal lives.

In 2013? What a shame not to imagine more choices for our spectacular students.

Editor’s Note: All posts whose headlines begin with the word “OPINION” — including this Letter to the Editor — reflect the views of the individual author and do not necessarily represent the view of The Daily Princetonian or its staff.

©2013 The Daily Princetonian


28 thoughts on “OPINION: Letter to the Editor: March 31, 2013

  1. nowhere in Patton’s essay did she argue that women should find a husband than throw away all future opportunity… I think her argument was just that having a compatible husband is important for happiness and success in life, and Princeton is enriched for compatible husbands compared to the rest of the world so women should take advantage.

    Too many people have read her article to mean that women should get a husband than say “fuck it, i’m done.” That wasn’t her point. I think she would agree that if a woman were to find the right husband–one who matches her intellectually and respects her autonomy and ability– it will be easier for that woman to achieve at the level she is capable of, because a man who is her intellectual equal would not feel threatened by her and push her into traditional gender roles.

    • She implied that women need to find men of equal intellectual caliber or greater, but that her sons are able to marry anyone, whether they are intelligent or not. Also, the implication that women need to be married and therefore would put the search for a husband at the top of their college to-do lists, over learning and establishing other relationships (both professional and personal) is extremely backwards thinking in my opinion.

    • That is not the issue. The issue is the suggestion, which is confirmed by explicit statements, that those men and women who attend Princeton are somehow inferior and dummies and your chances of meeting someone intelligent off-campus are so low as to be negligible.

      I think the issue is that the article is incredibly elitist.

      • The article wasn’t elitist. The elitist is Ms. Patton. It undoubtedly gave Ms. Patton the opportunity to boast about her and her two son’s accomplished educations at Princeton. And if that’s what she needed to do to feel good about herself, whoop-de-do! Insecurities about ones’ self creates a need in many people to boast about those external things in one’s life that matter nothing to love and happiness.

    • Was there anything in her letter that led you to believe that? Or are you just assuming that because she wrote something that seems kind backwards that she must be a racist?

    • It’s sad that you, unable to mount a reasoned response, waste your free speech on slanderous insinuations.

  2. Ms. Dolan has confirmed my worst fears about gender ‘studies.’ She made up a bunch of stuff about what Ms. Patton said in order to create a straw man, or should I say straw person. Basically, anyone who does not nod in agreement with the consensus must be shunned immediately and forcefully. Gender ‘studies’ is simply a justification for a new form of intolerance.

    • Apparently, for success in Gender Studies,
      simple reading comprehension is unnecessary,
      whereas misrepresentation
      of one failing to bow down to every sacred cow,
      is de rigueur.

  3. I couldn’t agree with Ms. Patton more. It is folly to think that your future happiness and work/life balance is not enriched by picking the right spouse. Frankly, it is the MOST important decision you will make regarding your future. I think she gives voice to a very valid point — young Princeton women are in the right place to find a compatible spouse and to put off thinking about a spouse until some later date – especially when the pickings are thin is not a “smart” move. Of course you can’t force love and it will be or not be — but I do think that the pundits put some much emphasis on work and career and balancing children and no one really talks about picking the right spouse. Thank you to Ms. Patton for broaching an important topic.

  4. Oh the timing of this woman’s letter could not have been any better! Thousands of NJ citizens are banding together in support of NJ Assembly Bill A3909 in an effort to end lifetime (permanent) alimony in the state. What a perfect time to warn the Princeton University students that if you are married for as little as 10 years in NJ, the marriage ends for any reason, and you are the higher wage earner, you are very likely going to pay your former spouse alimony for the rest of your life. Consider this, you marry at age 28, but after 10 years your spouse decides that he/she no longer finds the relationship rewarding enough and files for divorce, and you, with your Princeton degree, are the higher wage earner, you could, at the tender age of 38 be paying alimony until you are 80 years old! That is over 40 years of alimony for a 10 year marriage! Think this can’t happen to you? It happens daily in NJ. Go to NJAlimonyreform.org and read the other horror stories and help us make history by changing the law. Please support A3909 and put a stop to lifetime alimony payments before it affects you.

  5. Ms. Susan Patton,
    May God bless our young generations to love, marry, thrive and achieve.
    May the blessing of the Lord be upon you for speaking to young women and men about importance to be rooted and grounded in marriage with love.
    Loving marriage is a health and wealth for every living soul.

  6. On the one hand, I disagree with Ms. Patton’s views. On the other hand, I’m quite sure they coincide with how my mother views Princeton: a competition ground to catch a husband (and he must be older, just as Ms. Patton required.)

    I bet I’m not the only daughter with this problem.

  7. I’m puzzled by the furor over Ms Patton’s letter. She did not say that women should view college primarily as an opportunity to get an Mrs. If one is fortunate, s/he will be married longer than s/he will be employed; therefore finding a compatible spouse is at least as important as preparing for a career.

  8. I think students in college are more interested is exploring sexual than intellectual compatibility 🙂 Nevertheless, the latter topic requires more explanation, as personalities change with time. If one is intellectually challenged at work, would one want further demands at home, or would one prefer just a supportive spouse? Princeton is considered a very conservative institution; would one want a similar spouse, or someone who is more liberal to stimulate broader thinking? The letter could be the basis for an interesting alumni survey. Friendships are forged in college, so it would be good to keep in touch with schoolmates. They will be a basis for recognizing true love, and making a mature decision.

  9. Where have all the good men gone? Where you left them; back in your twenties. The Catocalypse cometh…

    Thank God for Manosphere bloggers who are keeping an archive of all the warnings and milestones leading up to the Catocalypse.

    “Never married” rates for women are climbing fast (and accelerating) but you’ll never hear about the non-PC causes in gender studies. See Dalrock, Rational Male, and The Spearhed to learn why.

    Hold fast to PC delusions of empowerment but men have had enough, and we are dropping out of marriage at an accelerating rate. Don’t believe me? Set aside your prejudices and a couple of hours then peruse a few of hundreds of Manosphere blogs to learn what young men are learning about the extreme risks (and minimal rewards) of Western marriage in the 21st century.

    • Mark, I am so glad that you posted these comments. You have no idea how severe those “risks” can be. New Jersey is one of just a few states that still allows for lifetime (permanent) alimony awards for marriages as short as 10 years. Just imagine, you graduate from Princeton, get married at age 28 and 10 years later your spouse decides that the marriage just isn’t as fulfilling as they had hoped. If you are the higher paid spouse, you will be paying your ex for the rest of your life. Imagine the pain of paying alimony for 20 years longer than the original marriage lasted! Please take a minute to look up and read NJ House Bill A3909 and share the information with your friends. Its too late to help many of us, but if that bill gets passed it will prevent your generation from the suffering of permanent alimony. This has nothing to do with child support payments, we believe both parents need to provide for their child; this is about putting an end to a lifetime of cash payments to an able bodied ex so the two parties can move on with their lives.

  10. I’m still missing what was factually inaccurate about the original letter. Statistically, she’s probably right about the availability of smart men. If anything, I took Patton’s original letter to be somewhat feminist in that she said men marry down and stated women shouldn’t (why not, I ask, if all things are considered equal?). If she wrote, explore your sexual freedom because you’ll probably never have a bigger and easier to access pool of single willing individuals again, would there be such a fuss? It would also be a statistically accurate assessment.

    But of course in today’s society, everything is about perception and not reality. That’s why a head of Gender Studies could come out slamming a letter that for all intents and purposes actually supports her root career. Go figure.

    Oh, and, if a man wrote this story about meeting women, not a snowball’s chance in hell that he would be criticized for anything else other than only seeing women as marriage material. I support equality, I just actually support it rather than support a series of dualing standards that pretends political correctness equates to equality. I mean as man I’m capable of having a child as much as a woman is of having erectile dysfunction (note, the statement is dripping with sarcasm to make an obvious point).

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