Will Someone Tell Susan Patton a.k.a The ‘Princeton Mom’ To Shut Up?

shutterstock_27948950__1366551809_142.196.167.223If you live under a rock or just try not to read things that may infuriate you, maybe you haven’t heard of Susan Patton, a.k.a the “Princeton Mom” and her fabulous advice for college-aged women. Sorry to burst the bubble of serenity you have been living in before the knowledge of her existence, but she just won’t shut up so I’m going to have to tell you a little bit about her.

She garnered a lot of attention with her now infamous letter to the editor in The Daily Princetonian. She spoke of her experience attending a “Woman In Leadership” conference at the university. She had some advice for female college students. I’ll sum it up in one of her quotes:

Clearly, you don’t want any more career advice. At your core, you know that there are other things that you need that nobody is addressing. A lifelong friend is one of them. Finding the right man to marry is another.

Sure. Why give the soon-to-be female professionals who are graduating from Princeton any real career advice. They have vaginas, so obviously the only thing they care about is finding the right man to marry. Ms. Patton, your time machine is double parked out front.

Well, for some reason she was invited back to Princeton this week to speak (what the hell?). From NJ.com:

During a lecture hosted by the university’s American Whig-Cliosophic Society, Patton said she wrote the letter to the campus newspaper, The Daily Princetonian, expecting to reach 200 people.

The day after its publication she learned there had been over 100,000 searches for her name on Google. She said the media attention has only reinforced her opinions.

“I am absolutely delighted with the response,” she said. “Educated women should not feel ashamed or uncool or unpopular by saying, yes, I want to be married and have children someday.”

I don’t think that acknowledging that some women want to be married and have children is the same thing as telling women they will never be fulfilled if they don’t. Interestingly, the poster woman for marriage is divorced and works as a professional executive coach. Methinks she’s using this whole “marriage is happiness who cares about a career” schtick to further her career. Oh, the irony.

She said yesterday that she was surprise [sic] by female undergraduates’ focus on their professional rather than their personal lives.

“They are receiving so much information about career planning, and they don’t need to hear any more of it,” Patton said.

Yes, why give soon-to-be Princeton graduates career advice? How stupid. Whose idea was that? Graduation should be sponsored by Match.com so these women can get what they really need.

Patton said that while the men who graduate from Princeton grow more desirable with age, the women carry a “burden.”

“If we do want to marry men who are our intellectual equal, we’ve almost priced ourselves out of the market,” she said. “Finding a husband as smart as you is going to be hard if you don’t find him at school.”

“A woman looking for a husband in her 30s gives off total desperation,” Patton said, likening the effect to a “man repellent.”

Yes, ladies. Please spend your precious college years looking for a man instead of taking full advantage of the almost $60,000 a year education that you are getting. Because marriage is the only thing that will make you truly happy, says divorced Susan Patton.

I’m done.

(photo: Tatiana Popova/ Shutterstock.com)

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  • Tea

    You mean I should have been paying 25k a year to find a wife and play beer pong and drink Jager, not study, network, put in long studio hours and have a job?

    But seriously, face-palming so hard. You do not go to a school like that to go find prince charming and have babies ever after. Want a family? Cool! But you should probably be using your time at Princeton for, you know, learning and networking.

    Geeze, it sounds like the plot for Mona Lisa Smile all over again…

  • http://Mommyish.com/ Amanda Low

    “If we do want to marry men who are our intellectual equal, we’ve almost priced ourselves out of the market,” she said. “Finding a husband as smart as you is going to be hard if you don’t find him at school.” She seems to think there’s only one kind of intelligence…there are plenty of college-educated people who are proficient in one subject and completely clueless in others (or lack street smarts).

    • http://twitter.com/DecaturFlora Flora

      She’s probably working off the studies that women who marry men who aren’t as intelligent as they are end up divorced or in an unhappy marriage. You know, kind of like her. Who married a man who was clearly her intellectual equal simply on the basis that he went to Princeton!

      (insert exaggerated eye roll)

    • Tusconian

      Oh, it’s not just about college education, or the fact that she thinks “college” = “intelligence.” It’s not that difficult to find men with a college degree after college if you’re a college educated woman with a job. There are a lot of solid reasons that a woman with a college degree would want her significant other to have the same level of education that are far more complex than “they don’t appreciate other types of intelligence cuz they’re snobs who went to college.” This woman isn’t suggesting that it’s going to be hard to find a man with a degree and a decent job, and they will end up married to some guy who has never read a book. She’s suggesting that once they get out of the Princeton bubble, it’s going to be hard to find an Ivy-educated blue blood with a bunch of connections from family and secret societies. These girls aren’t supposed to fear marrying some guy with a minimum wage job who doesn’t understand philosophical debates and doesn’t see the point in sending their kids to college, they’re supposed to fear marrying a middle class-born engineer who went to NYU, or worse, a state school (the horrors).

  • Emily

    I have no info on her marital status, but I can say that she is right about at least one thing: once these young women leave Princeton, most any room they are in will not have the cumulative intellectual horsepower that they will find in college. They just won’t. I know from whence I speak- having attended a brand-name school, I can confirm that of COURSE there are many incredibly intelligent people in the world- both college graduates and not- but college is the ideal place to find many of them in one spot.

    • Gangle

      Why do you have to marry someone who is *ahem* your ‘intellectual equal’? What does that even really mean? Does it mean that your intellectual equal has to at least have the same level of education? What about emotional maturity, personality etc etc?

      My sister-in-law has her PhD. She is a cancer research scientist, and is doing her fellowship at Oxford in London. She is one smart cookie. She is also married to my brother. He is a car mechanic. No University. Just an apprenticeship. Does this mean that their marriage is doomed, because my brother is considered too much of a dum-dum for them to have a meaningful connection?

    • Lastango

      Gangle, Emily doesn’t seem to be saying it’s necessary or even important to marry an intellectual equal. As I read it, she is saying intellectual equals are harder to find after graduation.

      But there are women who do feel that way. Here’s a comment from the post at the link below:

      “I was in a very long term relationship ( more than 4 years) with a man who was a 9 in physical looks but was relatively less intelligent and kind of the stereotypical dumb jock (although he was street smart). At first we were both crazy young in love and none of the intelligence stuff mattered even though after about two years in, it became glaring that we never had much or any “deep” conversations. By the time I graduated, the lack of conversations about ideas, beliefs etc began to take its toll on me and him as well. He confessed to me shortly before our break up that he felt inadequate regarding my intelligence and never felt so insecure about anything. We mutually ended the relationship knowing that long term, this will definitely be a problem. We are still friends, he was an amazing guy, but ultimately the absence of mutual intelligence in our relationship and its offshoots broke us up.”


      There are many other comments of interest in the thread, and I recommend it as worth a read.
      (Please note, just because I’m citing that comment doesn’t mean I’m endorsing it. There are MANY articles reporting that setting narrow priorities has left many a high achieving woman stranded by reducing the pool of potential mates to a very small percentage of the population, and by causing her to wait so long that her SMV (sexual market value) is on the decline. She ends up trying to compete for men who don’t want her.)

    • Gangle

      I would say, from that comment, that the commenter lacked emotional intelligence… ‘he was a dumb jock, but he was a physical looks 9′. Who says that kind of stuff? It makes it abundantly clear where her priorities lay (at least at that time of her life). Doesn’t sound like it was a particularly mature person, or relationship.
      Again, my brother was average at highschool. He did OKAY at school. He wasn’t a ‘dumb jock’, but he knew that university was not what he wanted. He is a mechanic. His wife was the top of her class. Same with Uni. She is doing her fellowship in cancer research. Just because she is intellectually his ‘superior’ (for want of a better term), does not mean that they are not equal.

    • once upon a time

      I don’t think anybody’s trying to argue that a less intelligent person is not equal to their more intelligent partner. It’s just, some people prefer to be with someone intelligent, just like some people prefer to be with someone who has a sense of humour.

      My ex-boyfriend was smart in many ways – he had more common sense than anyone I know (and I think people underestimate how important common sense is), he was great with people and he had a lot of practical skills – but he wasn’t intellectually intelligent. And after three years of having to dumb down my speech so that he could understand me and not being able to discuss politics or current evens, I realised that intelligence was a deal breaker for me. I would never in a million years say that my ex wasn’t my equal – in fact, sometimes I felt like I paled in comparison as a productive member of society. But, seeing as we generally spend more time with our life partner than anyone else, I needed a life partner who had some ‘book smarts’.

    • Kheldarson

      It’s not about being intellectually equal or physically equal or religiously equal; it’s about being compatibly equal. In your brother and sister-in-law’s case, they found that they are compatible in acceptable ways to them. In the case of the commenter referenced above, she ranks other virtues higher than your brother and SIL do. And that’s okay. In my marriage, I have all the drive and my husband would rather be stay-at-home. And that’s okay for us. But it wouldn’t work for a woman who’d rather stay at home. Yes, there is a tendency to look for someone who is close to you in terms of book smarts if you went to college, but part of it has to do with who you tend to associate with as well. So nobody’s saying there’s something wrong with your brother and SIL, just that people want different things in life based on their individual personalities and experiences.

      It just happens that there is a tendency to look at academic intelligence as a starting measure. That’s all.

    • Emily

      “As I read it, she is saying intellectual equals are harder to find after graduation.”

      Yep, that is all I am saying.

      For some people, finding the intellectual equal is an important part of a meaningful connection. Not true for everyone.

      By ‘intellectual equal’ I am talking about a counterpart who has the interest in and ability to discuss issues of import (whatever those are to you) at the same depth as you. That doesn’t mean educational level, or occupation.

    • Tusconian

      No. But there are a lot of reasons why any individual would prefer someone with a similar background or upbringing as them would prefer that. It’s not (for most people) always about being an “intellectual equal,” and in this case, the Princeton mom is probably not concerned with whether these young women will be discussing neuroscience or philosophy with their husbands over dinner. But, going to college is a unique experience that molds the type of person you are, and it changes your views on a lot of things, much more important than an idea of intellectual superiority. For me personally, I could never marry a man who would not strongly encourage, practically insist, any of our children got at least an associate’s degree. This isn’t universal, but a man who went to college is more likely to fully comprehend how important a college degree is to someone in my situation than a guy who never went, but does all right for himself. Even though I plan to have an MBA soon, I think I’d find that support
      just as much from a guy with a PHD as I would from a guy with an AA. I’d liken it to the fact that some people are fine dating someone of a different religion, and some people aren’t.

      And it seems you’re in the UK. Something a lot of Europeans just don’t get (despite how much cheaper their education is) is how difficult it is to get a decent job nowadays in the US without some kind of degree. “Apprenticeship” programs barely exist any more. Every auto mechanic I know has a 2 year degree, and if you go to the wrong type of school, you still can’t actually get a job as an auto mechanic even if you have that degree. It would honestly be a bit of a challenge to find an American currently employed in a factory assembly line that didn’t have some kind of post-secondary education. People still do get good jobs without college, due to experience if they’re older, ridiculous amounts of talent, or nepotism, but despite the cost, life is easier with one.

    • meteor_echo

      It’s different for different people. I know that I’d be bored to death with somebody who was not on the same intellectual level as I am – since intelligence is one of the major factors for me to start a relationship with a person. Looks are definitely secondary in this respect.
      The person may be not interested in the same things as I am, but still, they should simply be intelligent for me to date them. I can’t say for other people (and, as long as it works for them, it’s fine!).

    • Amber

      Of course, because after graduating from Princeton, most women go on to work as janitors of moron factories. It’s not like they work in competitive environments with other well educated, intelligent people. Goodness no!

    • Barkybark

      Also, obviously if you don’t go to a “brand name” school, you’re not intelligent, either. Zheesh.

  • Lastango

    I’m not inclined to beat up on her — there are feminist career women giving advice that amounts to the same thing: find a husband while you’re in school.
    One version goes something like: find your husband early, get the child-rearing underway, and then re-join the workforce because if you wait (have the kids later, then try to return later) you’ll never get back on board the corporate train in a position you would want.
    Another version says: marry early, before you’re too successful. Later, it will be harder to find a mate that’s comfortable with your achievements and income.
    And then there are the realists who point out the very high percentages of career women who don’t have families and who never married. (see below)
    And besides, why tell Patton to shut up, or regret that some organization invited her to give a talk? Letting her explain herself is a good way for individual women to consider whether they want to take or leave what she has to say. I’m sure no one here wants to suggest her audience isn’t capable of reaching their own conclusions.


    BTW, there are some indications well-educated and high-achieving women need to give some early thought to where and when they are going to find a mate if that’s what they want for themselves. (If it does nothing else, Patton’s view is a reminder to not overlook that, or to think it’s automatically going to happen all by itself.) Consider this bit:

    “This is the study that earned Hewlett’s book a cover story in Time magazine, a lengthy segment on 60 Minutes, and countless radio, TV, and newspaper mentions. All have focused on the headline-grabbing finding that 49% of women over 40 who earn more than $100,000 a year are childless. That compares with 19% of men in the same category. And lest you assume that these women chose the life they’re living, only 14% said they had not wanted children.”

    “But Hewlett reveals a more uncomfortable reality, one that is not getting much attention from the commentators who see this as strictly a woman’s problem, or fault. A primary
    reason so many career women don’t have children is that they don’t have spouses. Only 57% of the high-achieving women over 40 in corporate jobs are married, compared with 83% of male achievers. Overall, high-achieving women either marry early or not at all. Just 10% of the women surveyed got married for the first time after age 30, and 1% after age 35.”

    “One woman interviewed, an associate in the municipal-securities department at UBS Paine Webber Inc., relates how those statistics play out in her office. “Half of the male associates in my group…are already married with children. And in all cases they have
    stay-at-home wives. In contrast, most of the female associates are single. Only two of them are married, and neither have children.” Further up the career ladder the male-female divide becomes even more marked, she says. The men are all married with kids, while the two fortysomething executive women are both divorced and childless.”


    • alice

      it’s always humorous when replies like one this get “thumbs down”

    • Aquaria

      I want to know what you call feminists, because I know almost ZERO feminists who say the appalling things you do. The feminists I know think every woman should decide her own life path for herself, without ridiculous sexist barriers, presumptions and stereotypes, like the ones you just spewed. I know of very few that tell women to choose marriage and children now and career later, or vice versa. They ALL seem to think that what needs to be addressed is the endemic attitudes and barriers and policies that force women to choose one or the other.

      Why are men who are successful and 40 married with children in higher numbers than women their age? You toss out a throwaway line about men having stay at home wives, without even bothering to look at the DEEPER problem with that–why is it still more acceptable for women to be unpaid domestic help while a spouse pursues a career than it is for men to be the unpaid domestic help?

      Did you even ask how many women are forced to choose a job or a career because institutions have unspoken sexism? Why is my friend the English professor married to another English professor who got her PhD from the EXACT same program her husband did, in the exact same year, held down to instructor positions, while her husband is on the tenure track, and is already a full professor? Do you think it had nothing to do with the fact that she once breast-fed one of her children in the faculty lounge? Do you think it had nothing to do with people assuming that she wouldn’t do her job as well because she had four children?

      You don’t even think about the deeper problems behind the tidbits you toss about so blithely.

  • Eve Eriksson

    She actually makes a lot of good points. Feminism did nothing but screw most of the women of my generation out of healthy fulfilling relationships with men. We’re women – we were biologically created to be mothers and supporters. I have no problem with the women who just want to be professionals – go for it! But the majority of us are not fulfilled by having a great career. A full life includes more. Men and women ARE different and we won’t move forward until we embrace those differences and learn how to use our strengths to support each other. Yes, women can do everything as well or even better than men – but that doesn’t mean we have to. I’m tired of feminists trying to masculinize women in the name of equality. When I let a man hold the door for me, or he compliments my clothing, checks my oil or takes out my garbage – I don’t feel degraded – I feel sexually empowered.

    • CMJ

      Weird. I am a feminist and I don’t feel degraded by anything you describe. (I mean, I will take out the garbage but if my husband wants to do it awesome!) I also agree that a full life includes more than just a great career. Does that full life mean I have to have children? No. Do I judge other women for having children? No.

      Being a feminist doesn’t mean I am a member of the She-Ra Man Haters Club….it just means I think women can do whatever they want – and be afforded those opportunities to do whatever they want – and not be judged for it. That could mean being a SAHM, a working mom, not being a mom, being a wife, a partner, a girlfriend, single…ANYTHING.

      You can celebrate the differences in the sexes and still be a feminist. In fact, you can be girly and still be a feminist. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

    • lea

      “When I let a man hold the door for me, or he compliments my clothing, checks my oil or takes out my garbage – I don’t feel degraded”

      If you think this is the kind of stuff that feminists are actually concerned about, I think you are doing the feminist movement a disservice. This insignificant shit always gets thrown into the “why feminism is bad” argument and it is utter rubbish.

      Doing nice things for your partner, or allowing them to do them for you, is not incompatible with being a feminist.

    • BlueBelle

      EXACTLY. I hate hate hate hate that THAT is what gets brought up in discussions about feminism being masculinizing et al. That’s HUMANITY. And if that’s what gets you off on feeling “sexually empowered” good fucking grief.

      /end brief rant

    • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Guerrilla Mom

      Thank you for this.

    • Jen

      That’s not remotely how I see feminism. And I don’t think feminism was every introduced in the way you’re explaining your interpretation. Feminism is: do what you want and just because I have a vagina don’t discount me. Something that is still very real today. True feminism absolutely embraces differences in gender as well as in humans on the whole. There are extremists on all points of view and those are the one everyone listens to. It IS denigrating for Ms. Patton to assume that somehow Princeton is the holy grail and anyone not educated there is “less intelligent” (She doesn’t say that but implies it). She also assumes that what is important to her (status and “intellectual equality”) are what’s important to everyone. Which is why she sounds like a smarmy witch.

    • Tusconian

      Men are different from women, yes.

      And those differences have exactly nothing to do with being a “supporter” or taking out the garbage (I actually find it a bit weird you feel empowered sexually when a man takes out the garbage for you. That’s something that happens once a week or more, and you probably don’t even need to ask for). I like it when men (the right men, appropriately) compliment my clothing, but it’s not sexually empowering, I just feel pretty. And women are biologically “created” (BTW, the bible isn’t a biology textbook) to be mothers in the same way men are biologically created to be fathers.

    • meteor_echo

      “Feminism did nothing but screw most of the women of my generation out of healthy fulfilling relationships with men.”
      Weird. I’m not feminine, obedient and subservient, I don’t look girly or tone myself down for my partner, yet we are happy with each other. I guess some men want to be with somebody who is as strong as them – or stronger.

      “We’re women – we were biologically created to be mothers and supporters.”
      And, since we have conscience, human women can opt out of both, thank you very much. I support my own shit and I mother my own projects – perfect.

      “I’m tired of feminists trying to masculinize women in the name of equality.”
      Just as I’m tired of other women trying to feminize every other woman for the sake of being ~womanly~.

  • Sara

    I think the kind of women she’s speaking to are the kind of women who have a mental checklist for the kind of partner they are looking for. I’ve been friends with a couple women like this – the man has to have A, B, and C qualities or he’s not worth a second date. And these women are perpetually single and desperately looking for the “right” guy. They also, then, need to meet a guy who has the same shallow type of checklist, and they each have to meet each others’ requirements. How exhausting.

    • Jen

      these are likely the women who go to college to get their MRS not their BA.

    • meteor_echo

      Well, depends upon the A, B and C qualities you’re talking about. I have my own list, which is made of: A) smart, B) faithful and C) caring. Honestly, I’m not willing to compromise any of those qualities just to ~be with a man~.

  • Kat

    Hahaha. I agree. Just shut up.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mandiejstanley Amanda Stanley

    Well, this is one person my daughter will never hear of! Proud of all those parents out there who encourage their daughters to be educated and strong!

  • http://www.facebook.com/KatjaMouse Katja Yount

    This is somewhat counter intuitive as well. Wouldn’t it make more sense to tell a woman to get her foot in the professional door, work on her career and once established to then, in her late 20s, start zeroing in on a partner? Also, isn’t the old common advice for women in their mid to late 20s to look to men in their mid to late 30s because when it comes to ‘settling down’ and thinking about families wouldn’t they be more evenly matched than a 22 year old bro who just wants to finish up his BA?

  • Amber

    It’s really tragic that the Princeton mom became so pathetic and worthless when she hit 30. That’s the only explanation for her belief that single women over 30 are desperate and pathetic.
    That’s not normal. I hit 30 several years ago and my puss didn’t dry out and people did not start throwing garbage at me when I went out in public. It’s really not that bad. I’m attending 3 weddings of women in their 30s this summer and haven’t heard any plans of boycotting the wedding or pouring pig’s blood over the 30something bride due to her age. But, maybe Princeton mom is right and it will happen. I’ll update.

    • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Guerrilla Mom


    • Aquaria

      LOL. I married for a second time in my 30s, and am v glad that nobody threw garbage at me for it.

      I wonder what she would think about an ordinary woman like me, no Ivy
      League education (I haven’t even BEEN to New England!), working class,
      no important connections at all, I’m average in looks, and I can still
      get hit on three times between my workstation and my car. Going to OR
      from work.

      Some of us know how to use our strengths in getting a spouse or someone to date. And some don’t.

      I’d like to inform Ms. Patton that the reason no one wants to date or marry
      her sons is because she undoubtedly raised them to be as much of
      woman-hating trash as she is. People don’t want to date your sons
      because they’re pigs, Susan. Not because there’s something wrong with
      women who want a career.


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