"I am not responsible for anyone’s attention"

A Cornell University student stripped to her underwear during a presentation to protest against her professor.

According to the New York Post, Cornell senior Leticia Chai stripped down to her underwear to protest against her professor who said her clothing was inappropriate in the prior week.

Rebekah Maggor had questioned Chai’s denim cutoff shorts during a test run of the presentation, saying they were too short. 

“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.”

Chai left the room after a male classmate said she had a “moral obligation” to show less skin according to Teen Vogue. Maggor then followed her out, asking her what her mother would think. “My mom is a feminist, gender and sexuality studies professor,” she replied. “She’s fine with my shorts.”

Maggor then asked what Leticia should do next. “I’m going to give the best damn speech of my life,” Chai responded.

In her presentation, titled ‘Acting in Public: Performance in Everyday Life’, Chai asked her fellow students to stand up “against oppressive beliefs” as she stripped down to her bra and underwear.

“I am more than Asian,” Chai said in her presentation. “I am more than a woman. I am more than Letitia Chai. I am a human being, and I ask you to take this leap of faith, to take this next step — or rather this next strip — in our movement and to join me in revealing to each other and seeing each other for who we truly are: members of the human race.” 

“We are so triumphant, but most importantly, we are equals.”

28 out of the 44 audience members also stripped down to their underwear in support of Chai, who told The Cornell Sun, “I am not responsible for anyone’s attention because we are capable of thinking for ourselves and we have agency.”

In a statement, Maggor responded, “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.”

11 of the 13 students who witnessed Maggor delivering her comments about Chai’s shorts released a statement reading, “our professor’s words and actions were unfairly represented in [Letitia’s Facebook post], with certain quotes taken out of context.”

Nonetheless they added, “We strongly support and identify with Letitia’s fight for equality in the treatment of all people, regardless of race, gender, color, creed, sexuality, or appearance.”