Following criticism over her company's lack of diversity and treatment of former Black and POC employees, Leandra Medine Cohen announced that she would "step back" from Man Repeller, the site she founded in 2010.
In a message posted to her personal Instagram page late Wednesday, Medine wrote that "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."
"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," her statement continued. "You were right — even though I've been able to write to 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. Much more to come."
On June 1, Man Repeller published a story by Medine titled "Where We Go From Here: A Message for the MR Community," in which she outlined ways the site pledged to amplify Black voices in the short-term and diversify its content in the long term.
However, in the comments, many readers pointed to a longstanding lack of diversity not only in Man Repeller's output, but also, historically, on its staff. Some brought up how Crystal Anderson, the site's former operations manager and a regular contributor to the site, had been let go at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, WWD reported. In a piece for Vox, a former POC employee speaking on condition of anonymity described "a culture of favoritism and cliquishness" at the company.
A few days later, Medine shared a second piece, "I Owe You Better: A Commitment to the Future."
"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," she wrote. "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. To celebrate your you-ness."
Man Repeller would hire "a diversity and inclusion specialist" to conduct an audit the company, Medine said. She would speak with current and former employees about their experiences working at the company, after some alleged an exclusionary work environment with little diversity. "Getting this right is a crucial step in a long process. I owe you better," Medine noted. "And I hope that this is the beginning of my chance to offer meaningful repair."
Still, commenters on the post and on social media continued to express disappointment in the disconnect between Man Repeller's mission to celebrate individually and the reality of what they were publishing, which they felt catered specifically to an audience of white, wealthy cisgender women.
What Medine's involvement in Man Repeller will be like moving forward — and whether she'll have any input on its editorial content or its management — is still unknown.