Susan Patton, a Princeton University 1973 alumna, recently wrote a letter to the Daily Princetonian newspaper, addressed to young females on campus looking for a new student beau. She urged young women to ‘find a husband before you graduate’ because they will a) be your intellectual counterpart (you may never find such a large group of similarly educated men on your doorstep) and b) will provide you with the financial security you need.
I’m really pleased that the Guardian has provided women with some breathing space and asked, in response to this and Joanna Moorhead’s comment piece, ‘Young women: are you burnt out over the discussion about your future?‘.
I feel exhausted thinking about my role in a relationship in my twenties and how this fares on my stumble up to 30-hood, never mind the tropes of financial security and having children. There seems to be pressure from all sides, from your parents, media, even your biological clock a-tick-tocking. I can’t count how many times my female friends have told me they’re worried about being 25, 26, 27, 28 ‘without a boyfriend’ and terrified about becoming 30. Wouldn’t it be nicer to just get on with things at your own pace, and not have to be comparing yourself to others all the time?!
(I realised on my walk home that this blog post is probably (definitely) self-therapy for me! Living in a city and working a 9 to 5 job, with all its security, also makes you lose a worldly perspective!)
Even in Moorhead’s comment feature, she prescribes more advice. Moorhead does discuss something important though. Patton’s letter did project the main aim of feminism: we have played our mother roles, now we can strive for domestic emancipation, can work alongside men in elite professions and can also be there with emotional support for friends and family members. We can have everything. Now, Princetonian women – get it on campus while it’s hot!
However, the ability to have everything is incredibly confusing for the female psyche. All this advice when there are too many options, I feel, is just overwhelming. Moorhead’s advice was freewheeling and open – ‘plan your life’. But it’s still all too prescriptive and motherly. Never has freedom seemed so restrictive.
Isn’t feminism all about women being able to attain what they want, like a man is more likely to be able to do, without all these outside pressures?