“Find a husband on campus before you graduate.”
What once seemed to be the outdated motto of a lost generation of housewives has resurfaced thanks to Princeton University alum Susan Patton. In a letter to The Daily Princetonian, Patton explains that these intelligent girls aren’t going to be satisfied marrying someone less intelligent than they are and that in general society, men prefer women who are younger and dumber. Therefore, the girls’ most suitable matches are at Princeton. “Look around you,” she said when discussing her letter. “These are the best guys.” These comments have sparked considerable controversy.
Patton’s overgeneralizations are as inaccurate as they are harmful. They illustrate close-mindedness and blatant arrogance. To say that Princeton men are the best: that no one else in the world is good enough — anywhere — is just ridiculous. Her comments are encouraging Princeton girls to turn up their noses at the rest of the world, to believe there is nothing better for them in society than what they can get at Princeton. It’s a great school, but it’s not the be-all-end-all of education. There are only about 7,500 students at Princeton, undergraduates and graduates combined. That makes for a very small pool of suitors and doesn’t even begin to cover the diversity of 7-billion people on the planet. If we really want to find that special someone, being pretentious enough to whittle down this number to a few thousand is impractical.
I’ve seen some of this same arrogance at our own university. We’re at a good school and like to tell people that. It’s not that we should think any less of ourselves or the University, but there’s a difference between thinking you’re awesome and thinking everyone else is beneath you. Even with our 40,000 students, I have my reservations in believing that one of those is my future husband. We need to be open-minded about life in general, so thinking that you’re above 99.99 percent of the global population just because of the school you go to is plain ignorance.
But, of course, this exhibition of arrogance was not all that I found distasteful. If I were a man, I suppose I would be angered by her assumptions that men prefer dumb girls with pretty faces. But being a woman, I found her suggestion of using college like eHarmony offensive. Though Patton’s reasoning is supported by her opinion that Princeton girls are so superior in intelligence and skill that they will have trouble finding a partner good enough, the mere suggestion that college should be a place to find a husband is an injustice.
College is a time to embrace curiosity, exploration and selfishness. It’s about self-discovery and self-actualization, not about fitting our lives into the perfect little 1950s family. Haven’t we, as women, expanded our motivations beyond just finding a husband? How has it become so crucial to find a “good man” that women are told to snag one as soon as they can in order to avoid … what?
Those terrible, long, lonely years of being independent and doing something for themselves by themselves? I’m not against marriage, even early marriage. But it’s barbaric to think that college is a place that women should be running around like ravenous lionesses, constantly searching for an antelope to dig their claws into.
It’s people like Patton who won’t let women move beyond these deep-rooted stereotypes. It doesn’t matter that society sees women as strong and capable individuals, there’s still an invisible string pulling back to those traditional roles. Men aren’t told to marry in college. They’re encouraged to explore their options, find a stable career and maybe settle down with a family when they’re good and ready. But for women, time is still considered our biggest enemy, and it’s not just people like Patton that remind us. We do it to ourselves. But whether or not marriage is in our futures, the importance of gaining an education and exploring this crazy, liberal world of college shouldn’t be marred with talk of marriage and the constant race to find “Mr. Right.” These four years are about us. We can’t afford to waste our time.
Jasmine McNenny is an LSA freshman.