BY LAUREN PRASTIEN
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.
In the video, Muller raps a manifesto that may just be the exact opposite of Patton’s message. Exclaiming that she is going to “stop apologizing for penis” during a date with a cringingly patronizing Wharton alumnus who smugly underestimates her level of education, Muller emerges from the first movement of the song unapologetic of her Princeton degree. Here, once more, we see the tension of the Princetonian woman’s education not being a “turn-on.” But while Patton urges us Princeton ladies to snatch up a potential husband before he becomes interested an unintimidating woman of “lesser intelligence,” Muller decides that she will be unrepentant about her accomplishments rather than attempting to seek out a man who is a cut above her. This is an attitude that can and should be adopted by any woman in a world that still dictates that she must undersell herself for fear of crushing her date’s ego.
Certainly, Patton and Muller are on two sides of the same coin. However, the issue of Patton’s argument — aside from its elitism, sexism, ageism, heteronormativity, presumptuousness, general air of condescension and grab-bag of exploited privileges — is that it makes being an educated, intelligent woman something that Princetonian ladies need to compensate and plan for. You know, provided they ever want a husband.
But let me meet Patton on her level and pretend I am a resident of the strange little world she inhabits, where all women want to be in relationships with men and the trope finding a life partner at Reunions is apparently out of the question. Even then, in a world where everyone is heterosexual and wants to be married by 23, I can see glaring issues in Patton’s argument that still divorce her idea from Nikki Muller’s rap.
Rather than acknowledging that the problem is we exist in a culture that teaches heterosexual men that being in a relationship with an intelligent woman is emasculating, Patton instead attempts to help women buy back into that system by encouraging them to find a man who is “smarter.” Instead of writing a letter to the son she does have, compelling him to see a brilliant woman as someone who can inspire rather than intimidate, Patton teaches her imaginary daughter to be complicit with misogyny.
Faced with a culture that still clings to more-than-residual notions of a man’s worth resting in his intelligence and a woman’s in her sexual appeal, Muller chastises any potential partner that feels their own value will be depreciated by her achievements and abilities and calls for social change, pointing to the absurdity of the fact that her Princeton education makes “anyone with a dick run away.” Muller refuses to let her credentials render her untouchable.
On this issue, Patton chugs along, accepting the status quo, telling her imaginary daughter that she will be untouchable and unappreciated unless she is outdone in intelligence. She places the blame in the woman’s hands, making the misogyny “her problem” while Muller declares misogyny is “the problem” and understands that this is in no way her fault. And, Kelly, unable to recognize the difference, confuses Patton as the answer to Muller.
Unfortunately, the chronology is skewed. Muller had provided the solution nearly a year before Patton posed the problem and, in her own Huffington Post Blog response, declared an impassioned “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” in the face of being used to defend Patton’s argument. And, when it comes to men who are intimidated by her intelligence, Muller dismisses them as “douches,” as she rightfully should.
So I hope that one day I will be able to write a letter to my children, should I have them, urging them to both be and seek out other people — as friends, co-workers and life partners — who do not perceive another’s triumphs as diminishing to their own-self worth. And I will remind my daughters to never, ever apologize for penis. Or, you know, vagina.
Lauren Prastien is an anthropology major from Fair Lawn, N.J. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.