We aren’t over our language problems

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Over the generations that this country has seen, the views and perspectives of women in higher education have changed drastically. There have been many progressive steps taken over the past few decades that have moved women’s rights in higher education and in return in the workforce closer to the end goal of equality.

However, a single letter to Princeton University’s newspaper is seemingly trying to not only take the mindset of  women backwards, but slandering the intelligence of men that happen to attend other Ivy League universities. Susan Patton was one of the first women to graduate from Princeton, and now has two children attending her alma mater. Patton was quoted in several news articles and film coverages with words of advice both bold and shocking, such as “Here’s what no one is telling you: find a husband on campus before you graduate” and even “Men regularly marry women who are younger and less intelligent…ultimately it will frustrate you to be with a man that just isn’t as smart as you.”

When I looked at multiple articles and interviews about this subject, I began to notice a trend in the answers to certain questions. While students that were interviewed partially agreed with the claims that Patton made in the letter, they all seemingly agreed that they are too young to be looking for husbands right now. Others said the quite obvious, that they worked so hard in high school to get into the university; it was for education, not for matchmaking.

One of the biggest problems that I had with the letter was the simple fact that it is 2013 and a woman that was one of the first of her kind to graduate from one of the top universities in the country is seriously advising the “MRS Degree” to the young women at this college. As I am sure most of you know, getting into an Ivy League school is no walk in the park. It is hard work and something that millions of high school students prepare for most of their lives, and unfortunately, what most are never able to achieve.

Women were once never allowed to attend college or even pursue higher education because it was a socially constructed belief that women did not need or could not properly use the skills that they were given through the education system. It was also a common belief that if women knew more than they were supposed to then their heads would swell too large, and in return, their uterus would shrink, making them less likely to conceive.

There is more to question in Patton’s words of advice than just a woman’s desire of being at an institution such as Princeton only for relationship advantages. The letter is dripping with hetero-normative language and implications. Being the director of the LGBTQ Resource Center here at Bellevue College for almost two years has granted me a fine eye for such language. The fact that it is assumed in Patton’s language that a woman needs to find a man, and that men look for younger less intelligent women is completely preposterous. It is possible for women to seek women, men, transgender persons, or for those lovely women that identify as asexual, no one. It is also just as likely for a man to not get married, and if he does, to someone that is gender queer, intersex, or again, no one at all. The thought and belief that men and women only seek the opposite sex, and that getting married to someone is seriously a priority while in schooling, let alone an Ivy League is shocking not just to me, but others all around the country, and it seems to be the exact opposite of the progress our nation is trying so desperately to make. It seems to me that Patton has forgotten a few things: the progressive and successful generation she was able to be a part of, and the university in which she was educated at. A Princeton woman should have more grace in her articulation when giving advice to the young men and women that once walked the halls that she did.