Dana Panczenko
Staff Columnist

Even as a writer for a college newspaper, it can be easy for me to forget just how influential the work published by a school paper can be. This past week, I was reminded of just how powerful school papers can be when I was reading a very controversial letter to the editor, published in The Daily Princetonian. The letter, written by Susan A. Patton, a Princeton graduate of the class of 1977, was entitled “Advice for the Young Women of Princeton: The Daughters I Never Had.” The letter urges women to “find a husband on campus before [they] graduate,” and goes on to discuss that “smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal” and that Princeton women have nearly “priced [themselves] out of the market.” The contents of this letter sparked a controversial debate, and the letter has since been removed from The Daily Princetonian’s website, however copies of it still exist other places online.

My initial reaction to the letter was disbelief. I felt that by writing such a letter, Patton was belittling the women of Princeton, and that her words were comparable to saying that they should drop the books and not worry about a job, but to pursue an “M.R.S.” degree instead. As a driven female college student myself, I was offended personally by Patton’s words, as I felt that they belittled my own accomplishments, and were saying that I should be focusing more on finding a husband instead of my own career. After talking to several students here at Washington College, it became clear that Patton’s view stretches far beyond a simple letter to the editor.

Many students here at Washington College agreed with me. Sean Syme, a freshman, disagrees with Patton’s letter, stating that “part of marriage is…teaching one another things…coming from different intellectual points of view.” He went on to say that Patton was oversimplifying relationships, by putting too much emphasis on the idea of intellectual equality versus the idea of learning from different experiences. He also hates Patton’s tone, stating that “she seemed a little arrogant.”

While many WC students shared my initial reaction, others thought that the letter reflected more than Patton’s own personal viewpoint.

Meredith O’Connell, a sophomore, summed up the general response to the letter with “it’s one of those tragic things where I want to disagree, but unfortunately I feel that there’s a horrific truth to some of the stuff that she is saying.” She went on to say that, although Patton’s letter implies that a woman’s life is still defined by her husband, the letter is still reflective of today’s society. The focus for women to “have it all” has been increasing in recent years, as women are still pressured to have a successful career, social life, and family life. While many women at college are pushing to have successful careers, the idea of finding a husband and starting a family is often delayed. Patton’s letter, while forcefully worded, reflects the fears of women who delay starting a family in order to pursue a career.

As painful as it is for this writer to admit, as much as I disagree with and abhor Patton’s letter, it is very reflective of the society we live in. Whether or not you agree with Patton’s comments, women are still expected to “have it all,” and that includes finding a husband. When looking at Patton’s letter, MacKenzie Turnbull, sophomore, sums up how it should be viewed perfectly: “She says over and over again the word ‘advice’ and that is something you can take or leave.”

The Elm

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