A student from the prestigious Ivy league, Cornell University, was presenting her thesis when she chose to strip down to her underwear and bra in front of the entire class. This was in protest to a teacher criticizing the length of her shorts.
The senior student, Letitia Chai, took off her shorts and top during the presentation as an act of public protest because the teacher, Rebekah Maggor, ‘offensively’ commented on her clothing. The teacher told her her shorts were ‘too short’, and that she was attracting male gaze away from her presentation and on to her legs. Chai stripped and continued presenting for half an hour.
The student then took to Facebook to tell her story and explain why she stripped.
“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 the male students in her class agreed with what the teacher said to her, which is what further enraged her.
Later, the teacher came up to her and asked her what her mother would think about the way she was dressed: in skimpy shorts. Chai told the teacher her mother was a strong believer of feminism. “My mom is a feminist, gender and sexuality studies professor. She’s fine with my shorts,” she reportedly said.
Maggor, while talking to Cornell Sun, told her side of the story:
“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.”
Some of Chai’s classmates sided with the teacher, saying what she wrote in her Facebook post was not exactly what happened during the presentation.
They said the teacher’s comment had an ‘error in phrasing’; her point was to throw light on the ‘importance of professionalism in certain public speaking situations’. They explained she was not commenting on the shorts in general, but insisting that they were inappropriate for a class presentation, which calls for formal clothing.
They further added that Maggor even apologized on her choice of words, and that they didn’t hold her responsible.