Kathleen B. Nigro, Assistant Teaching Professor of English, one of the instructors in the Gender Studies Program at UMSL. Photo courtesy of Kathleen B. Nigro.

By Hali Flintrop, Opinions Editor

Sexual assault and violence against women are hot topics in the political arena. Several politicians have analyzed sexual assault and violence against women in recent statements and speeches, including Missouri Representative Todd Akin.

The Gender Studies Program at University of Missouri – St. Louis is addressing the topic of sexual assault and how it has become part of the current political discussion. Gender Studies is co-sponsoring two of three sexual assault-themed events on campus this coming week.

The Gender Studies Program, the Criminology and Criminal Justice department and PRIZM are co-sponsoring Tim Collins, whose performance “The Script” aims to raise awareness and understanding about violence against women. This event will take place on Thursday, September 20 from 2 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. in the Pilot House in the Millennium Student Center. Tim Collins is an actor by trade, and his educational presentation will be a “one-man show addressing sexual assault prevention,” as described on the performer’s website.

Kathleen Nigro, professor of Gender Studies and English, is one of the organizers of the event. Nigro sees violence against women and sexual assault as an important subject for the UMSL community to discuss.

“As Tim Collins implies, violence towards women is often overlooked or considered part of a very complex construction of male and female behavior. If we do not examine this issue honestly and without bias, we are also somewhat complicit in allowing it to continue. I think this is one of the statements ‘The Script’ makes — we follow gendered ‘scripts’ sometimes without questioning them. The play makes us question those scripts,” she said.

The second Gender Studies Program takes place the day before Collins’ performance, when  Gender Studies and The Current will co-sponsor the semester’s first “News at Noon” discussion and lunch, “’Legitimate Rape:’ the Power of Words in an Election Year,” on Wednesday, September 19 at 12:15 p.m. in MSC 316. The discussion aims to address these questions: Are politicians really waging a war on women? If so, what are some of the repercussions? How has the media represented the issue and how do words influence our understanding? The discussion will be led by Jerry Dunn, Clinical Associate Professor and director of the Child Advocacy Center, and David Kimball, professor of political science, with Emily Strang, graduate, psychology.

“News at Noon” is a monthly discussion series with a free pizza lunch, co-sponsored by The Current and The New York Times.

“The Current is delighted to work with Gender Studies for our first monthly News at Noon discussion and lunch event for this semester. Election issues are uppermost in many minds now, and gender issues seem to have emerged as a hot topic this election. Having Gender Studies lead a discussion on Todd Akins’ use of language and the power of words in elections is a perfect fit. It should be a lively discussion and we also hope it will bring out more students for our next News at Noon on October 10, when we will focus on the election issues that matter most to students,” Cate Marquis, senior, media studies, editor-in-chief of The Current, said.

The philosophy department and the student organization The Philosophers’ Forum are weighing in on this controversial topic as well. The Philosophers’ Forum Big Question Series on Tuesday, September 18 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in MSC 314 is titled “When was the last time you raped someone, and was it legitimate?”

Bre’Anna Liddell, graduate, philosophy, who teaches a course titled Love 101, and Jaqueline Meyncke, anthropology, St. Louis University, will lead a discussion based on Aiken’s comments about “legitimate rape.” The topics will be whether rape can be legitimate or illegitimate, and also what type of control women should be able to exercise over their own bodies in sexual situations, as well as choices that may need to be made after the fact of a sexual assault.

“It’s a student-led event, so it gives students a chance to come out and to basically discuss their intuition on their stance on abortion and whether a woman has a right to choose when it comes to her own body. We’re basically trying to create an environment of shared inquiries,” Liddell said.