Women in college should focus on finding a husband, mom says

Brides hold their roses during a group Valentine's day wedding at the National Croquet Center on February 14, 2012 in West Palm Beach, Florida. The group wedding ceremony is put on by the Palm Beach Country Clerk & Comptroller's office.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

"Here's what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate. Yes, I went there." As alumna Susan Patton wrote to the editor of the Princeton University newspaper, women should focus on finding a husband in college because they'll never again be surrounded by so many smart, ambitious young men. And good luck if you wait until you're a senior, she says, because then you'll have all those younger women to compete with.

Patton also is mother to a Princeton alumnus and to a current Princeton student. Her letter created a storm online.

"I'm guessing her sons are pretty embarrassed right now. Mothers have been embarrassing their sons since time immemorial by declaring that any woman should be happy to have a man so fine, but most mothers have the common sense to keep that sentiment inside the walls of their home," wrote Amanda Marcotte on Slate. "Dressing it up as concern for women's wellbeing and running it in a university's paper, however, takes cheek-pinching offspring-humiliation to another level entirely."

Kara Baskin, writing for boston.com, agrees that Patton's tone is obnoxious, but says her advice is right on: "Yes: It's horribly condescending to tell women to snag a man, any man with a pedigree and a pulse, just for the sake of being married and registering for china at Bloomingdales. I'm not arguing for settling. But what if you do set about finding a great guy (or girl, or whoever), feel secure in what you want at age 20 or 21, and end up with that person, subsequently sparing yourself years of bad dates and strange suitors? It's empowering, not pathetic. Why should finding a spouse be any different than angling for a great career or a corner office?"

Baskin, Marcotte and Patton join The Daily Circuit to discuss the advice, along with Jill Dolan, director of the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies at Princeton University.


Nina Bahadur on the HuffPost Women blog: "Sometimes, women want to marry other women. Sometimes, men want to marry other men. And sometimes, people don't want to marry anyone. Is there room for them in your universe?"

Catherine Rampell on The New York Times' Economix blog: "The idea that women may have stronger preferences than men do for assortative matches — that is, for marrying mates who are like them — has a long literature in economics and to some extent has been supported by data."

Maureen O'Connor's Q&A with Patton for NYMag.com: "If as a young [Princeton] woman, you are thinking that you would like to have not just professional success but personal success as part of your life happiness, keep an open mind to the men that you're surrounded with now."

Susan Patton's reaction to criticism: "I sincerely feel that too much focus has been placed on encouraging young women only to achieve professionally. I understand that this can be seen as retrogressive, but for those women who aspire to what used to be thought of as a traditional life with home and family, there is almost no ink addressing personal fulfillment outside of the workplace."

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