If you so much as turned on your phone this summer, you were sure to witness to a number of publications and media figures facing a reckoning, with calls for them to be held accountable for instances of racial inequity, especially in the workplace. In the wake, many committed to change, to creating more diverse teams, and to stepping up to become better allies. Plenty of big names, however, stepped back from their roles, and some shuttered their companies altogether. I won’t rehash all thebut through a series of events, Man Repeller was one of the biggest titles to go dark.
The process of shutting down was honestly a little confusing. Were they just changing the name? Finding a new EIC? When Leandra Medine Cohen, the famous founder and head honcho of the site, first stepped down, she hoped that the blog would be able to function apart from her. But if you follow Man Repeller, you know that Man Repeller is Leandra. You can barely tell her Instagram apart from the site’s colorful collection of blog posts, inviting you to formulate yourand muse about Removing Leandra from Man Repeller didn’t remove the inherent privilege that oozed from the site – after all, only a certain kind of person has the time to devote a lengthy quest to find
And so, after officially shutting things down in October, Leandra kept us in the dark before popping up with a new venture: a newsletter titled The Cereal Aisle. As a longtime Leandra fan, I was thrilled to have something of hers to read again. I had missed smiling at her witty observations, fangirling over and the general celebratory feeling of self-expression that Man Repeller had given me for all those years. While the first couple of newsletters (the first one titled ) dealt with the logistics of starting Man Repeller, leaving Man Repeller, and then deciding to shut it down, they soon evolved into thoughtful, sometimes extravagant but never too extravagant, everyday musings; journal entries of sorts.
As I read, I realized that what I had loved about Leandra this whole time wasn’t necessarily her style, but rather her commitment to seeing things as they really are. In this case, seeing things as they really are led to her decision to leave Man Repeller in the past. In 2021, as our considerations of gender are changing, a site titled "Man Repeller" tends to hold less meaning than it did ten years ago. Fewer women are dressing in reaction to rebelling against the male gaze, but rather challenging the idea that the male gaze is something that we should pay attention to at all. The idea that one should dress for oneself and not for a particular gender is less of a radical idea and more of an accepted truth.
But would I, and many of my friends, have come to this realization without the guiding light of Man Repeller? I don’t think so. Discovering the site when I was in high school gave me the permission to delve into a period of self-expression, and then in college reminded me that one’s commitment to style doesn’t diminish one’s intellectual abilities. But these days, I feel as if I needed less of a reminder to embrace what makes me feel good.
And isn’t that the sign of a job well done?
I think that’s the beauty of Man Repeller, and also the splendidness of Leandra Medine. The publication came when we needed it most, and then had the self-awareness to pause when we needed it less, giving its long-standing fans permission to go beyond what it had given us. In her newsletter, Leandra writes, “Whoever you are, whatever you do, just do it with a purity of intention. Good intention. It might be too much to ask that we force ourselves to see this in each other’s output, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask that we find it in our own. You know?”
As Leandra moves beyond her role as Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Man Repeller, it seems as if she is encouraging both herself and the site’s faithful followers to consider what a post-Man Repeller world looks like. If we have moved beyond dressing in rebellion to the male gaze, then we can simply exist in reaction to ourselves, which seems like the purest form of intention.
[Photos via @leandramcohen]