Thursday, April 04, 2013

about that letter

[Content note: rampant frustrated sarcasm in the commentary]

So a lady wrote a letter to the female student population of Princeton, exhorting them to snap up husbands before they left school, because '[they] will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of [them].'  An excerpt (emphasis mine):
For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you. 
Here’s what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate. Yes, I went there. 
I am the mother of two sons who are both Princetonians. My older son had the good judgment and great fortune to marry a classmate of his, but he could have married anyone. My younger son is a junior and the universe of women he can marry is limitless. 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. 
Of course, once you graduate, you will meet men who are your intellectual equal — just not that many of them. And, you could choose to marry a man who has other things to recommend him besides a soaring intellect. But ultimately, it will frustrate you to be with a man who just isn’t as smart as you. 
Here is another truth that you know, but nobody is talking about. As freshman women, you have four classes of men to choose from. Every year, you lose the men in the senior class, and you become older than the class of incoming freshman men. So, by the time you are a senior, you basically have only the men in your own class to choose from, and frankly, they now have four classes of women to choose from. Maybe you should have been a little nicer to these guys when you were freshmen? 
If I had daughters, this is what I would be telling them.

She's serious.

Okay, let's do this thing.
  1. The gross heternormativity of this piece is appalling.  In this year of two thousand and bloody thirteen we're still putting together sentences like 'the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry'?  Really?  This makes too many assumptions to count.  Obviously all women (or at least all Princeton women) are straight, cis, and want to get married.  That must be it.  I'll set this point aside for now, and assume that she curated her audience to be only those straight, cis women who have professed a desire to marry a straight, cis man someday.  
  2. Who the fruitcake are you, lady, to declare who is and is not 'worthy' of these young women?  Isn't that their damn call to make for their own damn selves?
  3. Men can 'marry down' in intellect, but women are comprehensively incapable of doing the same?  I just don't think I have the spoons to pull that apart in entirety, and I'm sure someone else on the interwebz will do a better job than I would, anyway.  So I'll just mention a few observations.  
    • See point #2.  
    • Really?  REALLY?  We're going to make 'level of acceptable Princetonian training' into the new caste system where it's super important to snag a husband in a higher bracket?  WTF? 
    • There are really no other characteristics that might, say, lead to long-term happiness or compatibility other than the woman in the (straight, cis) marriage being acceptably less than the man.  Okay then.
    • She's willing to reduce the lived experiences of however many bajillions of people might have different educational levels than their spouses by saying that they'll ultimately just be too frustrated to cope.  The 'well, you could choose to marry someone using, say, your own criteria instead of the one imposed on you by this random piece of unsolicited advice' (paraphrasing mine) little tidbit is especially cute, because it's followed by pointing out how IF YOU DO YOU'LL BE DOOMED.  
    • I.... I just don't even.  
  4. Moving on.  Ooh, look!  We get a second criterion!  Apparently it's categorically impossible for a ladyperson to be involved with a guyperson who is AT ALL younger than she is.  NOT ALLOWED, Y'ALL.  I had no idea that by the time I was a junior, the freshman men were totally off limits.  Oops, apparently that boyfriend didn't exist.  I must be fabricating those memories, because here's this totally authoritative lady to inform me that my relationship defied the laws of physics or something.  And apparently my college-educated mother didn't actually marry my eleven-years-younger, high-school-dropout father.  Thanks.  
  5. Ending this piece of drivel with an exhortation to be 'nicer' to men?  Really?  Clearly that's what we need!  Girls just have to be nicer to boys!  That'll magically fix everything like abuse and rape and the fucktons of little ways in which male-type-people are socialized to disregard (at best) or outright loathe all the female-type-people and their silly ladybrainz who clearly don't know how to make any choices or govern their own damn lives, while those female-type people are socialized in more fucktons of ways to put up with the shit and make themselves smaller and not impose and be nice.  This is rape culture 101.  
Look.  It's fine to point out that college is a great time for socializing because you're around a bunch of people who all share your interests and have similar levels of free time.  I get that.  I kind of miss that dynamic, and wish I'd appreciated it more when I was in school.  I miss the ability to magically summon a house party at a moment's notice, or randomly call a friend and meet them for lunch between classes.  Real life doesn't have that kind of connection or freedom. 

But it is categorically fucked up to assert that the only reason this is beneficial is for the purposes of snatching up a sufficiently-educated-and-older husband.  And that if you don't do this, you (as a Princeton-educated, straight, cis, maybe presumably white woman) have somehow failed.

This is not okay. 

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