Everyone loves to hate the “Princeton Mom.”
“Marry Smart,” the new book by Susan Patton, Princeton class of 1977 and mother of two Princeton sons, that advises young women to start looking for their future husbands as early as college -- and also to cultivate the maturity, physical attractiveness, and personal traits that would make them appealing to young men of brains and good character -- is currently every feminist’s favorite slow-moving target. No matter that the facts underlying her admonition are incontrovertible: Most young women really do reach their peak of good looks and appeal to men when they’re in their early 20s. Their fertility really does decline around the time that many of them these days are just get started looking for a husband. And college campuses really do contain greater numbers of single men who are their intellectual equals than they’ll ever again encounter in their lives. This is biology and demography speaking, not misogyny.
But judging from the jihad of disgust and ridicule that feminists have launched against Patton, you’d think she was advocating foot-binding. Apparently there’s no heresy so deserving of burning at the stake than saying out loud that a lot of women in their 20s actually want to get married and have babies. Even worse is daring to advise them how to do it. Patton devotes the bulk of her book to telling young women in and just out of college what to avoid: mainly binge-drinking, the hookup culture, and chasing after handsome “bad boys.” She counsels them to nix uncommitted sex, look their best even if they don’t look like Megan Fox, act like ladies, not be spoiled and whiny (“hothouse tomato” is her term), and generally be the kind of worthy woman that a guy would like to marry.
Oh man, you can’t say that! In fact, in the world of feminism, you’re never supposed to tell a woman to do anything except what she feels like doing at exactly that moment. Otherwise you’re being “mean.” Here’s Sarah Eckel at the Huffington Post:
“Patton has a new book out telling young women that if they don’t get their MRS degrees, they can say hello to their cat lady future. She also has a lot of incredibly mean things to say about contemporary single women, which could be summed up as ‘You are all selfish, slutty drunks.’
“Marry Smart, the retrograde pile of garbage that the ‘Princeton Mom’ has sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard and called a book, drops today.”
“Susan Patton, the mother who seared herself into our nightmares last March when she wrote a letter in the Daily Princetonian urging women to collect that MRS degree, stat, is back. This time she has taken her retrograde loonery to the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Her Valentine-themed opinion piece, about how college women need to ‘smarten up and start husband-hunting,’ is full of the absurd generalizing, medieval gender roles, Ivy League snobbery, and general wrongheadedness you might expect.”
Great feminist minds really do think alike, don’t they? They even use the same adjective: “retrograde.”
In fact, it turns out that Patton has science -- social science -- on her side. A just-published study in the May 2014 issue of the scholarly journal Social Science Research concludes that people with a balanced combination of physical attractiveness, positive personality traits, and good grooming are exactly the kind of people that other people want to marry. Here’s what the sociology professors wrote:
“A personal traits index is constructed from interviewer-assessed scores on the respondents’ physical attractiveness, personality, and grooming. Having a higher score on the personal traits index is associated with a greater hazard of entering into a marital relationship for men and women…. Under this scenario, a deficiency in one area could be overcome with strength in another area.”
In other words, if you’d like to walk down the aisle, do what Susan Patton tells you to do. If you’re not the greatest-looking girl on earth, you can make it up with an upbeat personality, positive qualities, and good grooming. But you’ve got to have something going for you. Unless, of course, you’d actually like to spend the rest of your life in splendid solitude. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Charlotte Allen writes frequently about feminism, politics and religion. Follow her on Twitter @MeanCharlotte.