A changing of the guard isn’t only happening in traditional media.
After being pummelled by readers for making the site’s content “tone deaf” and shrinking its diverse voices, Leandra Medine Cohen said late Wednesday that she is stepping back from Man Repeller.
In a short post Wednesday night, Cohen explained that she founded Man Repeller in 2010 to celebrate self-expression in all of its forms, but it has become clear that she “failed to deliver” on the mission.
“The team deserves a chance to show you what Man Repeller can be with me on the sidelines so I’m going to step back and let them show you,” she posted, without giving any further details of what that will look like.
Readers took Cohen to task after she published a piece titled “Where We Go From Here: A Message for the MR Community,” on June 1 in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd. In it, she pledged to shortly introduce guidelines on providing meaningful support to a diverse mix of creative talent, featuring unrepresented voices more consistently and empowering more POC-owned businesses with advertising space.
It received much criticism, as first reported by The Wrap, with many writing that they became fans of the site when they were younger, but now felt it was too out of touch with their lives and in recent times has become less inclusive.
One wrote: “I’m about the same age as Leandra, I also live in NYC but my experience as a Latina is completely dissimilar. Most of the current writers live in a bubble, and the tone-deafness of the web site has become offensive as the world struggles with inequality, racism, etc.”
Another read: “Most of the readership are people who are just hanging on financially, and people have voiced their frustration with the unrealistic skin-care regime and wardrobe suggestions, and over the years I have found that that has only marginally helped. Now, when they include affordable options, they go with just one outfit that’s under $100, and then several suggestions that are under $200/$500, and $1,000. I feel like they just add the one affordable thing to appease us.”
Others alleged on Twitter that Cohen had laid off Crystal Anderson, a Black staffer, at the beginning of the pandemic. Anderson confirmed this to WWD, but added that she was unable to speak about her experience at Man Repeller because of an NDA.
“I have worked at Man Repeller, Museum of Ice Cream and Refinery29 and all of these organizations have recently come under fire because of their treatment of Black women,” she said. “It has always been clear to me that Black women are the least prioritized minority group, as further evidenced by the fact that Breonna Taylor’s killers are still walking free without zero accountability for their actions. It is my hope that years of violence against Black femmes, both physical and emotional, will continue to be bought to light. So that action can be taken. The time is now.”
Many comments expressed their frustration about Anderson’s departure and the lack of diversity. “The lack of diversity amongst the staff is something that needs to be seriously addressed at the highest levels. Hiring (and potentially tokenizing) new staff is not enough,” one read. “The entire culture of the company needs to be re-examined as you seem to lose POC staff and Queer staff at an astounding rate.”
Man Repeller did not respond to request for comment.
Cohen concluded her Instagram post by writing that even though she’s been able to write so intimately about every other experience of her life over the past decade, she’s “fallen short here.” “That’s because this is more than just an exploration of my feelings. It’s my ignorance. Ignorance is part of the problem. Separately, Man Repeller and I will be part of the solution.”