Step Aside Boys

Photo Sarah Whiting

At this point in my parenting journey, when my firstborn approaches his high school graduation, I should be preaching that my child can do anything, be anything, and achieve anything. And that’s mostly true, up to a point: I recently informed him he cannot run for public office. 

It’s not that Elliott would make a terrible policymaker. Under his benevolent rule, we could all enjoy universal health care, tuition-free college, and gratis Xbox Gold memberships. In all, a major improvement over the conditions we’re currently enduring. But the time for white men to lead our multiracial and multigender communities is over. 

Minneapolis made national news last fall with its diverse new city council members. Yet our state is lagging behind: the 2017 Minnesota legislature was 92 percent white, when only 81 percent of Minnesotans are white. Only 32 percent of legislators are women, even though there are more women than men in the state. 

Women in Hollywood called their campaign against sexual harassment and assault “Time’s Up,” but they just as easily could have called it “Step Aside.” The latter is my personal mantra as I scroll past white male faces appearing in my Facebook news feed clamoring for support this November. “Step aside, fellas,” I shout, as I order the algorithm to make them disappear. 

A friend whose opinion I trust was baffled by my blunt assessment of our community’s political future. Her firstborn is a straight white male too, and she opposes any reflexive limiting of his prospects. It was only 18 years ago, she recalls, that we held our babies to our hearts and whispered that all their dreams could come true. “How can we tell our sons that they can’t run for Congress?” 

“I didn’t say they can’t be involved in politics,” I told her. “There are phones that need to be answered, doors knocked, checks cut.” Given that our sons can expect to be paid 100 percent of a white man’s dollar, those could be very generous contributions indeed. But our boys as candidates? Nope. Not even if they promise us taco trucks on every corner. Not until state leadership looks like our state.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was famously asked the ideal number of female Supreme Court justices. RBG’s notorious (pun intended) reply? Nine. Antifeminist news outlets pounced, but how is that more or less ridiculous than the fact that Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female Supreme Court justice, was appointed just shy of my tenth birthday, in 1989? As I told Elliott, I’m old enough to remember when things were worse — but I’m also young enough to envision that things could be much better.

I am not suggesting that feminists pledge to choose Sarah Palin over Joe Biden in a potential 2020 match-up (the horror!). But I am asking that we think very deliberately about local politics, where our bench of state and federal talent should develop. Candidates vying to be our state’s first-ever woman governor got their start on school boards (DFLer Rebecca Otto) and city councils (GOPer Mary Giuliani Stephens). 

My son Elliott, a total charmer with a generous, compassionate heart that is sorely lacking in public service today, was offended and annoyed by the inherent injustice of my position. “Why can’t I run, Mom?” he demanded, pausing play on XCOM: Enemy Within. I explained why, with a women’s studies seminar that made him cross-eyed.

“But there’s good news,” I said as I patted him, just as gently as I used to 18 years ago. “This fall, you can vote!” Mollified, he returned to blowing up aliens, and I returned to blowing up Facebook. Step aside, fellas! 

Shannon Drury is a self-described radical housewife and a long-time contributor to Minnesota Women’s Press. She lives in Minneapolis.