A sad state of affairs. It’s Valentine’s Day, 2015, and the most egregious advice on sex and marriage out there has co-branded an institution I love. No, I’m not referring to Mr. Kinsey and his club, or even Dr. Ruth and her empire, rather, to Susan Patton as the “P*ton Mom.” I’m eliding the university name for reasons that will become clear.
Ms. Patton first came to public attention when she advised young women who attend an Ivy League school to find their husbands among schoolmates, as anyone they choose later in life would be stupid. I abridge, but, not too much. Recently, Ms. Patton upped the ante by suggesting on CNN that date rape was a learning experience.
And there, my friends, the patience of reasonable people shattered.
A group of more than 100 of my classmates wrote this letter to the Daily Princetonian. Very gracefully, they manage to make very clear the extent of Ms. Patton’s misstep, without ever mentioning her name.
We are members of Princeton’s Class of 1978 who feel it necessary to speak up about sexual assault and rape in response to the undue repeated attention the media has given to the self-proclaimed “Princeton Mom.” We believe we speak for the great majority of Princeton moms and dads, as well as alumni who do not have children, in saying rape in general — and date rape in particular — is inexcusable, rape survivors deserve our help and support and anyone who sexually assaults another person should be prosecuted legally.
The media noticed.
Time Magazine picked up an article written by Princeton student, Logan Sander. She quoted more of the letter.
“The wider world continues to see this woman dressed in orange and black associating her out-of-touch personal beliefs with our alma mater. We—along with many other alumni—see these views as outrageous and unworthy of being associated with Princeton,”
Like lots of people, Julie List had seen what a fellow Princeton alumna, Susan Patton, had to say in her book about the importance of finding a man at college. (Manicures and weight loss recommended). List held her tongue.
But when she heard that Patton, who has become known as “the Princeton Mom,” had said some date rapes weren’t rape so much as clumsy hookups that could be a “learning experience” for women, List couldn’t take it.
“I became really enraged. I was boiling mad,” said List, a therapist in New York, after hearing about Patton’s December interview on CNN. “She’s basically telling these young women that it’s their fault that they got raped.”
Facebook conversations ensued, the letter was written and sent.
And Jezebel headlined (asterisks mine),
Well. At least no one’s confused. Except. One lingering issue remains. Can we stop calling her P*ton Mom. How about if I ask nicely? Send a valentine?
I can’t bear her co-opting Old Nassau’s brand any longer.
We might call her “Date Rape Mom,” but that would be inappropriate, and recommit her sin, i.e. trivializing a serious issue. So, may I suggest, “Marry Ivy Mom?” I’d propose “Marry Smart Mom” but that’s the title of her book and let’s not market her.
In all seriousness, Princeton, like all trusted organizations, needs to watch out for its reputation and behaviors around abuse of power. The university was known for anti-Semitism in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s time, and has been until recently one of the less diverse Ivies. Some eating clubs still suffer from bad actors. I am glad my alma mater takes a stand against against Ms. Patton’s stupidities. Luckily, the faculty had already spoken up, even before my class got involved.
My experience as a student, as I have said before, here, and here, was complicated. When my parents left their High WASP world, they drove fast, they took a train that didn’t stop. Although I loved my academic work to the point of intoxication, I was wholly confused by Old American social strata and mores. Even so, I remain a devoted alumna to this day.
As proof, I sent both my beloved children to New Jersey, from whence they take their sweet time in returning.
Ms. Patton shouldn’t be allowed to piggyback on what’s good about Princeton, and that about Princeton which needs to improve shouldn’t be masked, or supported, by her idiocy, sound, and fury.
I thank you in advance for your consideration. Have a wonderful weekend, whether you’re a fan of El Big Red Heart or not.