Column | Feb. 17
Around this time last year, an unnatural force stormed The Daily Princetonian website, campus and news networks everywhere. I speak, of course, of Susan Patton ’77, alumna of Old Nassau and self-proclaimed advisor to all Princeton women. In her letter to the editor, she advised female students to start the hunt for a husband immediately, for a number of reasons — the desirability of a woman decreases from her freshman to senior year, there is an amazing concentration of eligible bachelors here, and furthermore, our prospects decrease after college as we encounter less worthy men and begin to focus on our careers to the extent that romance takes the backseat in our life. In a nutshell, she says that women become less desirable the older they get, and men get less desirable the farther away women are from the Orange Bubble.
Why might I be bringing this thoroughly annoying piece back to light? Recently, Patton wrote another letter in honor of Valentine’s Day, this time to the Wall Street Journal, mocking the single ladies who are “ordering in sushi for one and mooning over ‘Downton Abbey’ reruns.” First, both sushi and ‘Downton’ are great. But primarily, the article is a lot of the same drivel from her original piece.
I know I should feel offended for women everywhere. Though she has a tiny disclaimer saying the married life is not for everyone, she essentially puts us all in a tiny box where husbands, babies and white picket fences are the most coveted prizes. The heteronormativity is off the charts. And frankly, anyone who says “you should be spending far more time planning for your husband than for your career” is not someone I want advice from as a 21st-century woman.
Yet, I am hardly moved by this aspect of her piece. Societal constructs have been imprinting the same ideas that Patton is attempting to for centuries. At this point, I am most annoyed with her treatment of men.
The greatest assumption of Patton’s argument is that we, as women, will never be surrounded by such a large number of amazing men and achieves a lot with a little. In short, she both fetishizes and puts male students of prestigious universities on a pedestal, one that women should be eager to scale in order to reach the prize of their love and commitment. There is a hint of merit in this notion — all students here are intelligent and exceptionally talented in whatever they pursue. Yet the name of your university does not tell me what your values are. It doesn’t hint at what your character is. And it most certainly does not tell me if you’re the type of person I can cozy up with to watch ‘Downton’ reruns while chowing down on California rolls.
Patton still insists we catch a Princeton man as if he is a Pokémon. And if we are able to capture one, we can’t become physically intimate too quickly. Everyone knows the only way we can incentivize commitment for men is if sex is attached to the relationship. There is no other reason these base creatures would ever want to be monogamous, so we must sweeten the deal. Women cannot treat sex as a gratifying act of physical intimacy. Rather, it is a tool we can use in a larger power play of manipulating and maintaining a man.
Still, the worst part about Patton’s analysis of men is the way she completely disparages those who are not from Princeton or a similar institution. Simply put, “Once you’re living off campus and in the real world, you’ll be stunned by how smart the men are not.” You can’t marry someone who is not your intellectual equal, and of course the only place you can find your intellectual equal is at a place like Princeton. Never mind that only 7 percent out of an enormous, competitive applicant pool is admitted every year. Never mind that there are other universities that nurture truly great minds. Never mind that someone who is not college-educated at all can still be an intelligent individual and that someone who does not attend Princeton can have greater insight on reality than some of us, living in such an insular, quasi-village. Patton wonders how we will survive if our significant others can’t discuss the merits of Henrik Ibsen or the Bayeux Tapestry. Well, I suppose the first half of my Princeton education has failed me, as I had to unashamedly Google both. Apparently even I can’t keep up with my ideal intellect.
Personal happiness is important, and if having a romantic relationship is important for a female student, then she should pursue that interest. It is not fair to criticize anyone for wanting a relationship any more than it is for someone who does not. But to do so in the name of the romantic and sexual elitism Patton perpetuates is dangerous, foolish and unfair to men — Princetonian or not.
Lea Trusty is a sophomore from Saint Rose, La. She can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.