Should women worry about getting that Mrs. degree?

A letter written by a Princeton alumna, Susan A. Patton, to the school’s student paper says women college students should worry less about Sheryl Sandberg’s advice, the glass ceiling, and life-work balance. What they should worry about is getting an Ivy League man to put a ring on it.

For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you.

Here’s what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate. Yes, I went there.

After “going there,” she moved on to tell the 22-year-old seniors that it may be too late to lock in a Princeton man.

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?

The letter has gotten a lot of attention and we can’t resist talking about it, either. Is Susan Patton onto something? Are only Princeton men worthy of Princeton women? Do the age biases that she describes still hold true?

bride.jpg(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. Last year, 30 couples tied the knot. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • JL

    Tell me you’re not going to do a segment on this tired subject. The letter is the mainstream media equivalent of a comment section troll. It may be a fun straw man to knock down, but it isn’t the real debate any longer. Don’t feed the trolls!

    • JL,

      You will be disappointed in us. Tomorrow we are doing a show. I swear it will be thoughtful! Susan Patton is joining us, along with a blogger who wrote about Patton’s letter from and a writer from Slate.

      • JL

        I’ll reserve judgment- I just don’t want a superficial “aren’t we all so much more evolved than that silly woman” discussion. I hope it doesn’t evolve into an hour of patting ourselves on the back for kindergarten level feminism when there are bigger fish to fry.

  • You had a guest (can’t remember her name) on Midmorning quite a number of years ago who spoke about how it was a waste of education and career for women to have children. That is, of course, boiled down dramatically. DOMA talks in the Supreme Court address marriage as a device to have children. The topic of the Mrs Degree is is jaw-droppingly offensive on its own, in my preliminary opinion, so it would be fascinating to pile on those other two controversies and see a diagram as to how all of the ideas sync, if at all.

  • Mark

    I guess it’s a matter of perspective; what one might call security I would call self-limiting and boring. American students (presumably more so for Ivy leaguers) have unparalleled access to the global community. Considering the mating possibilities available to them, focusing solely on people who chose the same school seems downright incestuous.
    As good as public radio is, its ability to convey the complexities of the world pales in comparison to actually forming deep, intimate relationships with people who may not be in your poli sci 100 class, or ever even come here.

  • Ann

    I guess I wouldn’t say you won’t find someone your intellectual equal after college (I’m a graduate of St. Ben’s, not quite Ivy League, but we hold our own.) However, in college, you are meeting a more diverse group of people and have more leisure time to meet and date than you do when you enter the real world. Meeting your partner at work can be problematic, especially if you break up, and do we really think picking people up in bars is the ideal? I met my husband at school (yes, I am the stereotype and married a Johnnie) and we have been happy for 22 years. Do I think my daughter in college MUST meet her husband in college or she is doomed? No, but I think can be a lot easier there.

  • Juls

    Is her point really that you can meet men who you have More In Common with (intellectually)? at college?

  • Brendan

    Not to add fuel to the fire but according to my Sister who works at the University or New Hampshire, they are projecting in a few years that the female to male ratio will be 60-40 (and the gap will continue to grow). According to other sources, this trend line is nationwide. On the plus side, it is a reason to encourage boys to work hard to go to college.

  • Jos

    It sounds a bit like “settling.” Terribly unromantic.

  • ann

    Really? This is an elitist topic. How many people really care about this. Really! How ridiculous!

  • Frances

    What about birth defects caused by older men fathering children? Older women may be less fertile, but older men are responsible for the birth defects. This advice should be given to young men, not young women. Young men DON’T have forever if they care about the health of their children. Young men mature at a later & later date; few college age men are capable of being a successful husband. It’s young men who need to wake up and understand they can’t be children forever. I’m in my 50’s, married in college & that was a mistake. Married in law school-another mistake. A smart woman waits until she finds a MATURE as well as an intelligent man.

  • Frances

    This set off a firestorm because it’s insulting as well as wrong.

  • Jordan

    Susan is voicing what I could not in college. I was very motivated to have a family, but I didn’t talk about it because nobody seemed to see value in that aspiration. It was only about my education and future career.

  • I totally get what Ms. Patton is saying. I went to the University of Illinois and remember looking out at the campus at night, seeing the lighted dorms of all 40,000 students and wondering why I couldn’t find someone to love. I was ready for a lasting relationship but no one turned up. I considered joining the Peace Corps but I could visualize finding myself on the banks of Lake Titicaca surrounded by native Peruvians that came up to my shoulder. Not a place to find a husband. Thankfully, I met my husband through friends, though he was attending Syracuse University. We’ve been happily married now for 43 years. I was meant to be married and finally found the right one…maybe things just happen in their own time.

  • Char

    no role models?!? look at all the women in the country who have juggled home and work for 30+ years!! maybe from a state university, but role models none-the-less

  • Julia

    What I never heard in the discussion is that relationships require TWO people, so it doesn’t matter if college women follow Susan Patton’s advice to be on the lookout for a partner if their male counterparts don’t want to be in a serious relationship! I graduated from an Ivy League college last year so I am familiar with these dynamics…The men in college who are only into casual relationships aren’t suddenly going to change their attitudes just because more women decide they need to find their intellectual equal in a partner while they’re still in college.

  • Jen Owens

    I’m tired of much of the conversations around the modern woman defaulting to the notion that she “can have it all,” –career and children. Entitlement is so much engrained in our society that we are blind to the fact that, in life, there are trade offs. I am 100% an advocate for women’s rights and equality, but having children is a choice (for most of the women we are talking about here). What about the women that don’t want it all? What about the women and men that decide not to have children and how society views these people? How is accommodating those that choose to have children fair to those that choose not to have children? I’m not yet convinced that women can have it all, nor think that any person is entitled to have it all.

  • Sonya

    I am appalled that in 2013 some feel it’s still all about “putting a ring on it” for women. I am glad my 9 year old daughter won’t hear that load of crap from me. My mom taught me that college was for improving my brain, not picking out a china pattern. This is back to the stone age.

  • Mitchel Peterr Hansen

    A) I have three lesbian aunts, all three of them took care of me after my mom died, and one thing that I have learned is that feminism, by definition, simply means that you believe in social, political and economic equality of the sexes; I am a proud male feminist. It would be comical (if it weren’t so ignorant) to suggest that the “orthodox feminists” are running around and preaching the abstinence of college-aged matrimonial courting.

    B) I DJ weddings for side cash on the weekends and the breakdown of how the couples met is as follows:
    -1/4 adolescent sweethearts
    -1/4 college sweethearts
    -1/4 post-college/college-age relationships
    -1/4 people who met on an online dating site…Susan, get off of your high horse and respect the paths that other people take to marriage. I plan to shell out the dough for Match or E-harmony when I acquire it. People who work a lot, don’t drink, are inherently shy, are new to a city, have trouble taking the first step towards asking someone out, have been “out of the game” for a long time, are older, have recently been through a divorce, and people who have been widowed are all grateful for these sites. My father found his girlfriend on Match and the fact that he could find someone else who understands what the tragic loss of their spouse and their children’s mother/father feels like has made it easier on him and on my brother and I. These people, along with your regular average Joes and Janes, are all benefactors of online dating sites.

    C) Scaring girls into finding a husband before they leave college is unhealthy (duh). It eliminates the wonder and excitement of waiting for the right person, it stifles the luxury of free-choice that makes the college/post-college experience limitless and exhilarating, and it completely ignores the reality that your perceived pool of intelligent men is entirely based on your geographic location; your friends and your friends’ friends; your education; your social, civil rights, and political beliefs; your self-security and self-confidence…and we all know that I could go on ad infinitum. Luckily, people who are snobby and close-minded (like Susan) tend to weed each other out 🙂

  • Scott

    This is all opinion-based. I’m sorry, but I think more people should be worrying about censorship in Canada than an op-ed piece in a college newspaper. Sorry – just thoughts from a dumb college student.

  • AMS

    Can’t we ever stop chasing this tired old dog (prescriptions for what women “should” do) around the block? This is the kind of stuff people were talking about when I was in law school in the mid-1970’s. It’s so exhausting to revisit these issues again and again. Every advance women make seems to be only a prelude to the next backlash.
    There is an insidious little chorus out there right now, bemoaning the falling American birth rate (at least among the so-called right kind of people—read white, affluent and educated). I see this letter as part of an effort to push such women to back off ambitions for a career, get married, and start having babies before it’s (supposedly) too late. David Frum wrote a column the other day extolling the virtues of marrying and having children young–by which he means early twenties—and “growing up together”—a ridiculous notion, in my view. This letter also reflects that sort of thinking. Finding a husband in college most often means marrying soon thereafter—and what happens to dreams of career or post-graduate education? Let’s face it—marrying young is going to have a disproportionately dampening effect on women’s career prospects as compared to men. Is that really what we want?