Leandra Cohen of popular fashion blog Man Repeller has announced plans to step back from the platform following widespread criticisms of the publication’s response to current Black Lives Matter protests, ignited by the death of George Floyd.
The founder shared on Instagram that she would stay "on the sidelines" in order to give her team the opportunity to show readers “what Man Repeller can be.”
The decision follows numerous attempts by the blog to weigh in on the current conversations around racism, social justice, and inclusivity. In an initial post addressing the Man Repeller community, Cohen made clear that the platform would “not remain silent in the face of police brutality and white supremacy."
Along with highlighting content and books that Cohen would personally be reading, the 31-year-old outlined some of the measures she planned to introduce with the goal of creating a more inclusive environment.
Critics were swift in holding Man Repeller to account by pointing out its lack of diversity and criticized what the brand represented. One commentator wrote: “I’m sorry but MR can never be inclusive. You’d have to change your entire raison d'etre.”
Much of the content was criticized as being “tone-deaf” and catering to “skinny white rich cis women.”
One reader accused the blog of being focused on “a singular overall perspective” and only occasionally highlighting women from more diverse backgrounds.
“It's not part of a cohesive strategy to highlight different perspectives; to give them the mic for a second, but not to truly make them part of the party,” wrote the reader.
Readers said they were also frustrated by the loss of various Black staff who had once worked at the publication but were no longer there. These include Crystal Anderson, the site's former operations manager who had been hailed for her style and contributions to the blog until she was laid off at the start of the global coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Anderson said: “I am unable to speak directly about my time at Man Repeller, as I am currently under an NDA. That said, I’ve spent the last number of years at institutions that claim diversity but sing a different tune within their walls: Museum of Ice Cream, Refinery29 & Man Repeller.
"I am exhausted. But not too exhausted to say the name of Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade. Black folk and queer people are brutalized, silenced and victimized daily in America and now is the time to call these oppressors to the carpet to atone for their sins.”
One critic wrote: “most of the women who write for MR have had extremely privileged backgrounds, and are white, just like you. Really think about and atone for the fact that you probably did this unconsciously, but the root of it nevertheless is SYSTEMIC RACISM.”
In a follow-up post responding to the criticisms, Cohen wrote: “I have let you and the members of the Man Repeller team down and I am sorry.”
Cohen acknowledged that her initial post was “insufficient” and shared that the company would be bringing in a diversity and inclusion specialist to audit and drive change from the inside, in addition to speaking with past and present employees about their experience.
Breaking the news of her decision to step away from the publication that she launched in 2010, Cohen blamed her shortcomings on ignorance.
She wrote: “You were right — even though I’ve been able to write so intimately about every other experience of my life over the past decade, I’ve 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.”
It’s unclear if Cohen will be leaving the brand permanently or if her absence is temporary. Man Repeller didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
Man Repeller describes itself as the place to explore “things women care about from a place of openness and humor” and is driven by a mission to make “women feel more understood and less alone.”
Cohen didn’t offer any detail about the new strategy for the blog with her no longer at its helm, simply concluding her announcement with “much more to come.”