Ethics Dunce: Susan A. Patton

Oh, yeah, ladies, if you can't hook one of these gems, you should just kill yourself...

Oh, yeah, ladies, if you can’t hook one of these gems, you should just kill yourself…

Ethics are built by values, and those whose values are warped and flawed are very likely to engage in unethical conduct consistent with their rickety ethical foundation. Thus it is that I have serious doubts about Princeton grad Susan A. Patton, who in a letter to the Daily Princetonian not only proclaimed her own lousy values but did so as “advice” to co-eds. (I hope the link starts working; it was not earlier today.) In her letter, she wrote…

“Forget about having it all, or not having it all, leaning in or leaning out … Here’s what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate. Yes, I went there…. Men regularly marry women who are younger, less intelligent, less educated. It’s amazing how forgiving men can be about a woman’s lack of erudition, if she is exceptionally pretty. Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal. As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are. And I say again — you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.”

How misguided, jaded and warped is this advice?

Allow me to take inventory.

  • Patton’s a sexist bigot. Smart men don’t “regularly” marry women who are less intelligent and less well-educated. Many men do this, but since that isn’t wise behavior over the long or short-term, the smarter a man is, the less likely he is going to be happy with a dumb spouse, and the more likely he is to recognize that before he is peppered with questions about why they are called Buffalo wings when they are really made out of chicken.
  • She’s an elitist snob. Worthy? Ack! Choke! Gag! Hack! Anyone who thinks human worth is measured in Ivy League degrees isn’t worthy of any of the millions of smart, wise, generous, loving, industrious, funny, and noble men who work in jobs as unglamorous as construction, carrying a rifle, keeping the peace or fixing leaky pipes.
  • She’s a fool. Almost anyone is smarter than she is…she could marry a sandwich and be taking a step up. There are too many kinds of intelligence to count, and only a narrow few of them are likely to get someone into Princeton, which is one of the problems with Princeton and elite schools generally.

“Now, some will argue that Patton is merely offering advice for women navigating an already-sexist world. But she’s doing it by pushing women — and women alone — to define themselves by their spouses and to make life choices according to an outmoded understanding of romantic attraction. A woman’s mind doesn’t matter to a man, only her age and looks do; thus, if a woman wants to use her mind later in life, she must capture a male intellectual superior before she loses her age and looks. Princeton is but a high-end dating service for clever women with sharp wits. What a depressing world view. Not to mention Luddite–doesn’t she know that Internet dating provides a cornucopia of elitist options, all more efficient than freshman-year dorm parties?”

Yes, that too. Here’s my advice to young women at Princeton or anywhere else.

  • Don’t seek money, degrees or status in a partner. Look for character, humor, common sense, curiosity, kindness, selflessness, courage, and for someone who can make you laugh….and who loves you for what you are, not for what you might accomplish.
  • The best men like strong women. Any man who is choosing life partners according to bra size and sex appeal alone isn’t worthy of you by definition, unless you’re a shallow jerk too, and finally

Don’t listen to Susan Patton.


Pointer: Fark

Graphic: Ivy Style

9 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Susan A. Patton

  1. Patton is a moron, a narcissist, an elitist, and not worthy of any man — much less a “Princeton” man… what’s so special about Princeton and the rest of the Ivy League, anyway? This is a self-professed sense of ‘specialness” based only on where she went to college. Grow up, Susan, get some therapy, and good luck in the real world. And maybe stop defining yourself by your supposed IQ, your college, and the man you may marry. I say “may” because I can’t imagine any man, especially at Princeton, wanting to spend his life with someone as screwed up as you seem to be.

    To the men at Princeton: “Run! Run away!”

    • Patton is a moron, a narcissist, an elitist, and not worthy of any man — much less a “Princeton” man… what’s so special about Princeton and the rest of the Ivy League, anyway?

      Princeton does have high academic standards. the Ivy League is just a short step behind the service academies when it comes to standards.

      But there are qualities, such as honor, decency, and integrity, that is independent of Ivy League status.

  2. I cant tell if this is satire but… if were talking about the quality of advice shes in the ballpark of right even if she shouldn’t be (by our cultures moral / ethical standards).

    As a general trend over time men will prefer younger women to older women. As a general trend over time men will prefer women who are less intelligent than themselves. As a… time men will be more concerned with looks than other character features. “Priced ourselves out of the market” / “limited population of smart men [paraphrased]” is an exaggeration but one within the realm of hyperbole. And she is almost certainly right about the last statement; college is the last great sexual hunting ground, for both sexes, before society begins to expects a more moderate approach.

    The only thing I could see someone reasonably getting upset about is that pieces like this reinforce the idea of marriage as “the goal” of a woman’s life and even then, outside a comparatively small population of lifelong careerists, as a general… time most women will want to get married (or have some other form of life-partner) and have kids.

    Does writing like this leave a bad taste in your mouth? Yeah. It will for a lot of people. But that bad taste comes from ugly truth and an elitist-ego catering presentation. Doesnt make it any less right though.

  3. I find this article interesting/amusing. I have read several academia-related articles similar to this recently. Most of these articles lament the fact that it is easier for men to succeed in academia because they have wives who will follow them to wherever they find a job and wives who help share/take the child raising and housekeeping duties. Female academics have to take what jobs they can find near their spouse’s job and don’t have the time to put into their careers. The women who write these articles take the tone that this is an unacceptable and unfair advantage men have.

    The problem is that there can only be one person in the relationship with the most successful career and these women insist it won’t be them. After making that decision, they complain that they have to sacrifice their careers for their more successful spouse’s. I wonder if Susan Patton is such a woman.

  4. Dear Jack,

    Please critique the following hypothesis: ‘The difference between Susan Patton’s letter to Princeton women and your response is not an ethical difference but an ethnic one. In her “Huffington Post” follow-up, Patton writes: “The extreme reaction to my letter is astonishing. Honestly, it was intended as little more than honest advice from a Jewish mother. And, yes, this is exactly the advice I would give my daughters.” Your response was the Irish Catholic/Jesuit worldview: “We are all on Earth as free agents tasked with maximizing our human potential.” I suspect Patton would argue that the Jewish mother’s advice has served Jews very well over the centuries while Irish Catholicism’s dogged individuality may be “enlightened” but may also yield much less solvent families.’

    Your thoughts? I think this conflict highlights the inherent limitations of “diversity.” If every subgroups’s way of life is given equal deference, culture does not evolve. Instead, culture devolves to its lowest common denominator.


    • I don’t think you can pigeonhole this as a Jewish mother’s perspective. Read this article in The Atlantic and you will find the same attitude widespread among the women in academia studied. It actually appears to be the main reason for the disparity between the sexes is the asymmetry in roles in the relationship. Male academics have wives who sacrifice for their husband’s career because he has the more important job. Women in academia marry men who have more important jobs than they do, so they sacrifice for their husband’s career.

      Based on the article, if professional women would marry nurses, auto mechanics, or electricians who could move where the women needed to go and who had free time to help take care of the family, the gender gap would narrow and perhaps close.

  5. Interesting Michael, but this issue has nothing to do with what Ms. Patton was talking about. I didn’t “pigeonhole” her, she did. She said nothing about careers in academia, a peculiar little world.

    Marriage is a problem in academia. I went to Hamilton College in the late ‘sixties and early ‘seventies. A great place then. Almost all full professors who actually taught and had students over for dinner. That has changed with academic marriages since then. Most of the professors communte because their spouses have jobs somewhere else. Good for the married couples, probably not so great for the stdudents. And of course all the universities and colleges love it because they don’t have to grant tenure. They can fill their classroom needs with associate and assistant professors who are all scrambling to become published.

    But Ms. Patton is all about going directly to the money, not getting tenure. She’d probably say the same thing I tell kids: “If you want to make money, go to business school where they teach you how to make money.” If you want to teach history, go for it, but don’t expect to be paid like Bill Clinton’s son-in-law is paid at Goldman Sachs.


  6. “You will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.”

    This type of hyper feminism seriously disturbs me – and I’m a woman. I’m so sick of it, men are no better than women and women are no better then men. We’re all freaking human (presumably) and need to focus on how to better humanity as a whole.

    Side note- are there no lesbians at Princeton? What about their mate finding needs???

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