The women’s movement is weeping

Posted on Apr 7 2013 - 8:53pm by E.M. Tran

It’s been a week since Susan Patton’s letter to The Daily Princetonian, in which she urges young Princeton women to “find a husband on campus before you graduate.”
“Men regularly marry women who are younger, less intelligent, less educated,” Patton writes.

She says that the number of worthy men on campus will dwindle as you get older, and by the time you’re a senior, the only men in your dating pool are other Princeton seniors.

It seems absurd that Susan Patton thinks it’s still socially unacceptable to date someone a few years younger than you. What era is Suze living in?
That’s at the bottom of my list, though, as far as the absurdity of the contents of her letter goes.

The way she addresses marriage is so systematic. Saying the chances of finding a man go up due to sheer numbers is statistically logical, I guess, but it also turns marriage into a solely social and economic tool.

If she recognized marriage as an emotional affair, talk of numbers and time limits would not be relevant.

I thought we were past the period when women had to marry in order to survive.
While I have a lot of obvious problems with Ms. Patton’s worldview, her letter does represent an ongoing conflict that has to do with changing gender roles. Our culture still actively struggles with how to approach women’s shift in career vs. motherhood, and women themselves do not know how to balance work and home lives.
If you look at our public policy, it would seem as if there is still a resistance to acknowledge this struggle at all. A lack of maternity leave forces women to choose: career or child-rearing?

The U.S. is one of three countries part of a 188-country study that do not offer women paid maternity leave. Our society still emphasizes that women should be the sole caretakers of children, and the fact that there is nothing at all to encourage women to both work and raise children inevitably leads women to choose between one or the other.
This battle concerning work and parenting also exists between work and marriage, which Patton has so unwittingly brought to our attention.

The expectation that women should get married before they hit 30 is still a societal pressure — just the cherry on top of the growing heap of expectations facing young women.

Yes, world, it seems perfectly reasonable that I get married at 25 while competitively pursuing a career and also getting pregnant and taking care of babies in the house I am now expected to help my husband buy since men and women are now “equal” — which still may not be reflected equally in our salaries, but I don’t have time to examine that because I’m too busy trying to look like Megan Fox while I cook dinner, or something.
Look, I understand where Susan Patton is coming from, however deranged she is. She’s just a middle-aged, divorced mother who is projecting her own issues on her poor sons.

Still, I can’t help but think that with every letter a mother sends her saying, “This is just what I wanted to tell my own daughters,” the women’s movement weeps.

E.M. Tran is in her first year of M.F.A. graduate studies. She is from New Orleans, La. Follow her on Twitter @etran3.