Man Repeller Founder Leandra Cohen to ‘Step Back’ After Criticism Over Lack of Diversity

Leandra Medine Cohen, founder of the fashion blog Man Repeller, posted on Instagram on Wednesday night she intends to “step back” from her role after criticism of her company’s response to the national conversation around systemic racism.

“Man Repeller was founded to celebrate self expression in all of its forms but it has become clear that I’ve failed to deliver on this mission,” Cohen wrote. “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.”

Cohen was responding to the influx of comments she received on a Man Repeller blog post on June 1 committing to standing against racism and highlighting underrepresented voices. Readers of the site found the blog tone-deaf, citing Man Repeller’s exclusivity and lack of diversity after laying off of a popular black employee.

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Last Thursday, Cohen tried to quell the attacks, writing, “I have let you and the members of the Man Repeller team down and I am sorry. The letter I published on Monday provided an insufficient explanation for how I plan to change the way Man Repeller operates, but I did not adequately address the way that it already has operated. I did not yet have a true understanding of the pain that has been caused, which has held me and therefore this company back from living up to its promised expectation to help women to feel less alone and more understood.”

Online, criticism continued.

“I’m sorry but MR can never be inclusive,” wrote one reader who identified themselves as a person of color and cited the “casual-wearing-of-Chanel-while cooking videos, the expensive baby clothes, the celeb friendships, the white women summer in the Hamptons photography, the endless Sex and the City references” as elements that kept the blog exclusionary and white-focused.

“Yep. Also, what happened to Crystal?” added another, referencing a black writer who lost her job amid the pandemic. “Man Repeller laid off one of their Black writers in the midst of COVID (it’s Crystal Anderson–who happens to be the coolest and most fashionable person ever) yet claims ‘I have a lot of learning to do before I know how to make a sustained impact,'” another reader added on Twitter.

Anderson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“You were right,” Cohen said in her statement on Wednesday, “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.”

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