Disclaimer: The follow piece does not necessarily represent the views of Maryland NOW, Maryland NOW PAC, its officers, or members.
by Victoria Brown
Atholton High School, Columbia, Maryland, Class of 2015
Spring Break for Maryland high school students is coming to an end and future graduates are returning from their college visits to make a choice of where to spend the next four years of their lives. When you consider the cost, location, potential majors, professors, internship possibilities, and prestige of dozens of schools, it makes this one of the hardest decisions of their lives. Many students, including myself, have spent the last several years studying for endless tests, volunteering, running from activity to activity, all culminating in choosing the “perfect university.” And presumably, if we make the right decision, it will have all been well worth it.
By the time our first day of college begins, we expect to spend a significant portion of our time preparing for the careers we’ve chosen, or in my case been dreaming of since we were six years old. We mentally prepare ourselves to stalk the stock market, or spend nights in the lab. However, “Princeton Mom” Susan Patton, author of Marry Smart, has demoted the role of young women in college to finding a husband.
Instead of spending our very costly time on campus learning all we can within our academic environment, Patton — in an interview with Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s Today, suggests that young women in college “double down, [and] spend 75% of [their] time planning [their] personal happiness, putting in place the things [they] need to ensure [they] reach [their] personal goals.” And for Patton, “personal happiness” means “finding a husband.”
What about the young women who dream of starting a successful business, winning a Pulitzer, or travelling the world teaching children science or math? Are those dreams less important than the valiant act of childbirth?
In preparation for the four-year manhunt, she recommends that young women get their bodies in order. Does she suggest diet and exercise upon consultation with your regular doctor? Or perhaps ensuring that you leave home with a positive body image? Nope. Instead, she claims that women should be ready and willing to go under the knife “if that’s what it comes to,” otherwise it will “hamper your own chances for personal happiness as well as professional success.” I suppose if I were obese and lower middle class, I should just quit now, because those of us without model perfect bodies will not have any chance of being happy, or happily employed.
The most personally infuriating commentary in Marry Smart is when she says: “If you are too drunk to speak, then you may be incapable of saying no or warding off unwanted advances. And then it’s all on you… Please spare me your ‘blaming the victim’ outrage.” During her Today interview, she supported this by saying: “At the end of the day, women have to bear complete and total control of themselves and responsibility for their safety.” While her other opinions could be viewed through a lens of 1950’s bigotry and sexism, this advice is downright dangerous.
The worst thing we can tell women (and men) is that sexual assault is the fault of the woman. Not only does this further traumatize her, but it also sends a chilling message to future sexual assault survivors thinking about coming forward. Just as we don’t blame homeowners when someone breaks into their house, we must not blame the victim for sexual violence — regardless of where she is, what she’s wearing, or even how much she’s had to drink.
Susan Patton is a danger to women. Imagine if the world’s future engineers, doctors, lawyers, CEO’s, artists, writers, etc. spent their all their time in the gym hoping to run into Mr. Right, rather than preparing themselves to find the cure to cancer or to run for Congress.
Sadly, Patton — like far too many others — fails to recognize what women are capable of. Some women do choose to get married and stay at home to raise their children. However, many other women choose to pursue careers outside the home, sometimes due to necessity, and those who do should not feel pressured to procreate by women (and men) like Patton. In about eighteen months, I hope to be at the school of my dreams, but spending 75% of my day chasing after an MRS degree is not part of the fantasy.
Bonus: While there aren’t enough words in the world for me to express my discontent with this book or its author, a Huffington Post article entitled “The 10 Worst Pieces of Advice From Susan Patton’s ‘Marry Smart’” comes incredibly close.