x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Men need emotional fulfillment as well

Susan Patton's advice that women should seek a compatible mate should also apply to men.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman gaining a higher education must be in want of a husband - or at least that was the case a hundred years ago.

Since then we've had feminism, the chiselling away of the glass ceiling and a narrowing of the male-female pay gap. But most importantly we've had social acceptance that education for education's sake is as important for women as it is for men, and that snagging a husband is not a woman's only or ultimate goal.

Imagine, then, the storm whipped up by a letter written by Princeton alumn Susan Patton, published in the student newspaper, to female undergraduates she called "the daughters I never had". She advised them to take a hard look at their male Princeton peers and realise that they will "never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you".

And here's her killer advice: "Find a husband on campus before you graduate." She knows her views are not fashionable in the 21st century, but "this is what nobody is telling you".

Her advice polarised opinions. There are critics who say that going to university to look for a husband is a backwards step for establishing a woman's independent worth outside of being her husband's chattel. Further, to say that the only suitable match for a woman is someone from the same university or social strata is elitist.

But other women are breathing a sigh of relief that someone has finally spoken about the importance of personal life as part of the women's liberation movement. Feminism has focused too much on career and forgotten about establishing women's personal happiness, which is also a feminist goal or at least ought to be.

The general idea of looking for a partnership with a compatible peer is, in my opinion, sound. And I agree that if feminism is to achieve women's happiness then one of its duties is to bolster women's belief in their right to more balanced partnerships.

More often than not, a fulfilling partnership is more likely to occur - although this is not the only possibility - with someone who is a social and intellectual peer. So looking out for such a person at a formative time of your life where there are those who match you intellectually is not a bad thing.

As an aside, I am saddened that we live in a culture where saying that you'd like someone nice to share your life with is considered unworthy and shameful.

Here's the problem. If advice about relationships continues to be given only to women, then the effort and responsibility to secure a partner will never be equally spread, which means that the relationships themselves can never be balanced.

The first step is for a public acknowledgement that men need good relationships too, and they too should be looking for a compatible peer.

Pushing for equal rights and treatment for women in the workplace has certainly had knock-on effects at home, some positive. But some of the negative ones focus around the challenge of "having it all" and being a superwoman who can juggle home and career.

But if men were encouraged to place a higher value on the home and on their personal relationships, then this burden would be reduced for women. But more importantly men too would be happier and more fulfilled.

Ultimately, a better work-life balance, with a better relationship at the core of it, is good for both men and women. That is the advice we should be giving our undergraduates today.


Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is the author of Love in a Headscarf and blogs at www.spirit21.co.uk