It is said that the tale of any empire can be told in three acts: a period of industriousness and building, a golden age of prosperity, and a final era of decadence and decline. The tragedy is that one can never be quite sure which act one is living through; the writing on the wall becomes legible only once viewed through the lens of history.
Take, for example, the website that until very recently was known as Man Repeller. Just over one month ago, the fashion blog announced that it was rebranding as “Repeller,” hoping to usher in a new golden age with a slate of new hires and a commitment to “more inclusive” content. Today, The Business of Fashion reports that Repeller employees were told via Zoom that the publication is set to close. The news came following a June announcement that founder and longtime face of the site, Leandra Medine Cohen, would step away from the business amid claims that the publication failed its writers of color, especially amid the pandemic.
What started as a personal blog chronicling the quirky-yet-very-expensive sense of style of one woman (Cohen), who championed the idea that men didn’t need to approve one’s sartorial choices, Repeller had perhaps lost its way in recent years. Cohen’s resignation letter admitted as much, promising to “create a plan that will hold us accountable to each other and our community.”
The letter prompted The Guardian to ask if the new Man Repeller “could ever be relevant again.” Less than five months later, Cohen told the “fewer than a dozen” remaining employees at Repeller on a Zoom call that the site will be shuttered and an announcement regarding severance pay will be forthcoming. According to a representative for Repeller, Cohen decided to shut down the business while there was still enough cash on hand to offer severance.
One problem the publication faced, The Guardian notes, is that the concept of man-repelling has become genericized by the girlboss industrial complex, made so popular by sites like Repeller and, um, this one, as to have made itself obsolete: “In 2020, “man repelling” also rings hollow as a concept. Who, exactly, needs to be told to stop caring about what men think?” The Guardian asks.
And not to be accused of sounding like Thrace crowing about Moesia being sacked, it’s worth pointing out that The Business of Fashion report acknowledges the very publication you are reading as being born of the same late-aughts time when feminist blogs and fashion with a feminist bent were still a novelty:
“Man Repeller made a name for itself with quirky takes ranging from whether the ripeness of avocados is similar to when single men under age 30 are ready for relationships to whether denim cutoffs are appropriate for adults. Along with Rookie and Jezebel, it was among a handful of digital-native publications that quickly found an audience among Millennial and Gen Z women.”
Only one of these blogs is still standing, and if anyone needs me, I will be packing an emergency bag to flee (or maybe join) the invading Goths at a moment’s notice.