18-year-old Cornell University student Letitia Chai, striped off her clothes in class to present her thesis in a bid to fight ‘oppressive beliefs’ after claiming her professor questioned the shorts she was wearing.
According to the Cornell University student, it was a demonstration against her Acting in Public professor Rebekah Maggor, who she claims told her earlier in the week that her shorts were too short during a trial run of her presentation.
In a Facebook post, which she later took down, Letitia wrote:
The first thing that the professor said to me was ‘is that really what you would wear?’
She, a white woman, continued: ‘Your shorts are too short’.
The professor proceeded to tell me, in front of my whole class, that I was inviting the male gaze away from the content of my presentation and onto my body.
She said I was making a statement by wearing my outfit. I told her that I sure as hell wouldn’t change my statement to make her or anyone else feel more comfortable.
Chai said a male international student in the class then agreed with the professor, and she decided to leave the room. She said her professor later came out of the room and asked her what her mother would think of her clothing.
Chai said she responded: ‘My mom is a feminist, gender and sexuality studies professor. She’s fine with my shorts.’
Maggor told the Cornell Sun: ‘I do not tell my students what to wear, nor do I define for them what constitutes appropriate dress.
‘I ask them to reflect for themselves and make their own decisions.’
Following the viral reaction to Chai’s Facebook post, 11 of the 14 students in the class issued a joint statement saying her comments didn’t accurately reflect what happened in the room. The class issued a joint statement in which they said professor Maggor’s comment had “error in phrasing” but what she was pointing out was “importance of professionalism in certain public speaking situations.”