Princeton Alum To Women: Get Your Mrs. Degree (Basically)

Well, this is terrible. In today's issue of The Daily Princetonian , the student newspaper of Princeton University, Susan A. Patton '77, wrote a letter to the editor encouraging young women (the daughters she never had) to "find a husband on campus before you graduate. Yes, I went there." Indeed, she did. And her argument isn't completely preposterous...until of course, it is.
Her basic thesis is this: "Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal. As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are. And I say again — you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you."
Should women value intelligence? Absolutely. Is there a lower concentration of driven men and women available to discourse on intellectual ideas, outside of a college campus where life learning is the primary focus (and we mean any college campus here, not just Princeton's as Patton suggests)? Probably. Should women and men both appreciate that wealth of intellectual curiosity when they're immersed in it? Again, yes.
But here's where the whole thing falls apart. Patton sends her readers off with this gem of an action item (and an unnecessary bit of snark, if you ask us):
"Here is another truth that you know, but nobody is talking about. As freshman women, you have four classes of men to choose from. Every year, you lose the men in the senior class, and you become older than the class of incoming freshman men. So, by the time you are a senior, you basically have only the men in your own class to choose from, and frankly, they now have four classes of women to choose from. Maybe you should have been a little nicer to these guys when you were freshmen?"
What the hell?
We have a few problems here. First, from the perspective of experience (full disclosure: This writer was a member of Princeton's class of 2004), so few women enter their 20s and 30s thinking, "Gee, I made so many good decisions about men between the ages of 18 and 22. Maybe I should let those rum-punch-informed ideas about dating and relationships be responsible for my future happiness. Because I was just so mature back then."
But even more troubling, beyond just the obvious elitism, and what we consider to be a pretty serious gap in logic, is the fact that Patton should represent so much more for Princeton women — and all women, really.
She was a member of the class of '77, the fifth co-ed class ever to be admitted to the school. Meaning she was part of only the second class to have women at the school as seniors — ostensibly as role models, to help create an environment of inclusion — when she arrived as a freshman. That in and of itself is amazing, from the perspective of sheer numbers. But more importantly, she represents change and progress at a school that was slow to welcome women and break with old traditions. She's a piece of history that is empowering and meaningful to so many women, including this writer.
And she's leveraging that encourage women to be nicer to guys above all else? She's placing the value of finding a "good" man above learning, above forming the friendships that will shape the rest of their lives (although, in all fairness, she does open her story touching on the lifelong friendships she formed in college), and above growing and developing into fully formed people who contribute to society in the most meaningful way possible. Because eventually, the men will have more (and younger, even) options, and you'll be flat out of luck.
Seriously, we haven't felt this let down by a trailblazer of a previous generation in a long time.
The story no longer appears to be live on The Prince's site, but here's the web cache, so you can read for yourself.
Photo: Courtesy of Princeton University, Office of Communications

More from New York