Mom Wasn’t Kidding When She Said Princeton Women Should Find Husbands Before They Graduate

Nope, that's not an April Fools joke. Alum Susan Patton has come under fire for her op-ed in the 'Daily Princetonian', which urged undergraduate women to find their future husbands before graduation.

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This weekend, while some people sat down to an Easter dinner or a Passover dinner, others sat down to read a controversial Mar. 29 editorial, “Advice for the young women of Princeton: the daughters I never had,” published on the website of the Daily Princetonian, Princeton University‘s student newspaper. Susan A. Patton, a 1977 alum — and mother of two Princetonians, one of whom is a current junior — was inspired to pen the viewpoint after she and her best friend from college participated in a discussion following a lecture by Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman and Wilson School professor Anne-Marie Slaughter at a Women and Leadership conference on campus.

As Patton wrote:

“Forget about having it all, or not having it all, leaning in or leaning out…Here’s what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate. Yes, I went there.”

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Patton, a human resources consultant and resident of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, is totally “serious”, she wrote in a follow-up on Huffington Post’s Women blog:

“I sincerely feel that too much focus has been placed on encouraging young women only to achieve professionally…I wanted to encourage the wonderful young women on Princeton’s campus to take advantage of this while they can. From a sheer numbers perspective, the odds will never be as good again…I am divorced. I did not marry a Princeton man. I wish I had…Honestly, [the letter] was intended as little more than honest advice from a Jewish mother.”

New York Magazine’s Maureen O’Connor first called Patton’s perspective “embarrassing” and an “excruciatingly retro understanding of relationships”:

“If men are happy with bimbos, but women aren’t happy with “men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal,” then the conclusion is that a successful heterosexual relationship requires the man to be smarter than the woman. This is the same logic used by teen girls who feign stupidity to attract dates for the homecoming dance.”

O’Connor later interviewed Patton, the president of her 1977 class and recent divorcee. Her ex-husband “‘went to a school of almost no name recognition,’ she said, declining to name the institution. ‘Almost no name recognition. A school that nobody has respect for, including him, really.’”

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However, marriage and family therapist Karin Ruskin told ABC News that many stellar students end up finding each other anyway:

“If you have similar value systems and you both are intellectuals, is it going to increase the chance that you’ll have a successful relationship? Of course. That’s a given.”

Some critics debated whether Princeton Tigers would make good husbands at all. The Frisky’s Jessica Wakeman said “no way” in a blog post entitled “Princeton Grad Warns Undergraduates To Find Their Husbands Now, Because The Rest Of The World Is Too Dumb.” She said that the Princeton men she has met are “the most insufferable bunch of Ivy League braggadocios to ever walk this Earth.”

And considering Princeton “doesn’t have a business, law, or medical school,” the Atlantic Wire‘s Rebecca Greenfield argued that the perfect Ivy must be a tie between Harvard and Brown:

“Harvard’s grad pool has it all: money, power, fame, heirs, Bush relatives…Then again, [Brown] that “hipster” Ivy has all the cutest baddest artsy boys, which is all that really matters.”

Gawker, meanwhile, is more worried about how Patton’s undergraduate son is holding up, imagining that he is “dry heaving into a dorm room toilet in shame.” Or maybe:

“He is the boy stretched out on the cool linoleum of a dusty back aisle in the library, quietly having a panic attack because his mother wrote a letter addressed to every girl he knows, trying to goad them into marrying him.”

Think Progress’s Alyssa Rosenberg wonders why the Daily Princetonian published the op-ed in the first place, arguing that while the popularity of the piece may have crashed the newspaper’s website, the paper should not have to be concerned about clicks:

“The decision to publish Patton’s letter was a demonstration that college newspapers aren’t just a place to learn the basics of reporting and opinion writing: they’re glomming on to the business realities of online publishing as well…it does depress me a little bit to see those realities trickle down to publications that have the enormous luxury of being supported by alumni endowments. Why not take advantage of the one time you’ll likely be free of traffic and metrics pressure and just put out the best college paper you can?”

Decked out in Princeton’s signature orange and black on NBC Nightly News Sunday night, Patton defended her piece and stated that she is entitled to her own opinion: “Look, it’s advice. Take it or leave it.”

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