by Ellie Kreidie
As a liberal and a feminist, I have been impressed over the years with Megan Barry, the first female Mayor of Nashville who has occupied the office since 2015. Throughout her career she has been a prominent pro-choice abortion activist and supporter of same-sex marriage; as a counselor she performed the first same-sex marriage in Nashville in 2015. Even though she has been a little too close to businesses and corporations for my liking, she has still proven to be a powerful, ambitious and revolutionary Democratic force in a Southern state. In early February, my opinion of her completely changed.
News broke that Barry had a two year extramarital affair with Sgt. Robert Forrest, Jr., the police officer assigned to lead her security detail. Barry acknowledged the affair during a news conference and insisted the affair had ended while apologizing for the embarrassment it caused both families. Yet, Barry insisted she would carry on in her role and refused to resign, which has gained praise from many fellow liberals and feminists who argue that few political men have ever resigned after their own extramarital affairs were made public. It isn’t the affair necessarily that has challenged my view of Barry’s leadership, it is the example that she must show as a woman in politics.
Supporters of Barry argue that if she were to resign despite a long history of men in politics also having affairs, her resignation would go against the feminist movement. Simply go online and you will see many people supporting Barry through her scandal, some going as far as to call her brave for standing in front of the news media and acknowledging her affair. This argument is where I believe that the ideals of feminism get lost in the minds of people who aren’t as accepting of the topic of feminism. The simple definition of feminism is that men and women are equal. To be more progressive one can go further and say all genders are equal. Throughout the world, if you meet a person with a mother, sister, wife or daughter (which is nearly everyone), it is nearly impossible to find someone who will openly say that their female loved ones shouldn’t be equal to them. Many people truly agree that genders should be equal, it’s just that the word feminism has become so polarized.
I believe the problem of Barry’s affair has dire consequences for the future of the Democratic Party and female candidates, especially in Southern states. The reason Barry’s affair is so prominent is not only the length and extent of the affair while in public office, but the possible public funds used to insure the affair carried on between Barry and Forrest. New reports have surfaced that Barry’s chief of staff approved travel expenses for all bodyguards, including Forrest. With Forrest accompanying Barry on at least nine different out of state trips, where one included just the two of them in Greece, questions have been raised over the use of public funds in the affair. An internal auditor has been designated to investigate the affair after unanimous support from City Council to do so.
Barry may have actually done nothing wrong in the end, in the same way that Al Franken may have not done anything wrong. But in the age of #MeToo, #TimesUp and Donald Trump, Democrats can’t just stand behind these strong women’s rights leaders and support them when they have done something wrong. In the year when a Democrat can be elected as a Senator in Alabama, the Democratic Party must admit that feminists can do wrong, too.
Ellie is a freshman