Letitia Chai, a senior at Cornell University, has recently become something of an internet sensation after her and a few other students protested comments made by their professor by stripping down to their underwear during a speech. The initial conflict began when Rebekah Maggor, Letitia’s professor, made a comment about her clothing as the student approached the classroom to give a presentation.
“The first thing that the professor said to me was ‘is that really what you would wear?” Chai wrote in a Facebook post about the incident. “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.”
“I think that I was so taken aback that I didn’t really know how to respond,” she added.
While many of the students present sided with Letitia, at least sided with the teacher saying Chai had a moral obligation to dress professionally.
“Am I morally offending you?” Chai asked before walking away.
So Chai decided to stage a demonstration the following day while she gave her speech. She wrote to her Facebook page and called for others who agreed with her to wear their best underwear and be ready to strip down to it for the following day. Chai’s mother, who is a feminist, gender, and sexuality studies professor, also watched the live stream the following day to show support for Chai.
During the presentation, which you can watch here, Chai and a few other students strip down over the course of the speech. Ultimately, Chai’s actions have courted some interesting responses from the internet as it has gone viral. Some of them offer reasonable and intelligent arguments both for and against Chai’s course of action. Most of them have involved calling Chai a fat b*tch who deserves to die while mumbling something about snowflakes, millennials, and fidget spinners.
Chai’s teacher however has taken the time to defend her actions, saying she does not tell her students how to dress. She says she has apologised for an “error in phrasing” and that her comment was not directed towards Chai as a means of slut-shaming, but rather that she hopes students have the sense to present themselves professionally during their time at the university.
“I ask them to reflect for themselves and make their own decisions,” she said.