Leandra Medine Cohen, founder of eccentric fashion site Man Repeller, said she always assumed the shed was canceled, she just thought it would be because she was a terrible leader, not because of racism or privilege. . She didn’t even realize she was privileged, she said in a recent podcast interview, until racial justice protests last summer forced her to (finally) take a closer look. her own life (and the second home in the Hamptons she grew up with).
I objectively remember growing up in a privileged environment and always feeling on the verge of homelessness, she says.
It’s hard to believe. She grew up on the Upper East Side and attended Ramaz School, an elite Jewish prep school, without a scholarship. Man Repeller, which started out as Medine Cohens’ personal blog, based on his own closet, highlighted designer clothes with price tags well beyond the reach of the average citizen. How had she not noticed that she was rich? She feels like the epitome of #girlboss), a woman celebrated for success even though she started at the top.
Medine Cohen has been a favorite villain on Twitter since resigning from Man Repeller last summer following a backlash after firing a black employee, and ultimately shutting down the post. The podcast episode was billed as a post-mortem of her cancellation, but she has little objection, moving beyond the experience of black employees or considerations of internalized racism to lament her own struggles. The podcast episode went viral; she is easy to hate and ridicule.
Yet listening to the episode, hosted by black fashion designer Recho Omondi on her popular fashion podcast The Cutting Room Floor at one point, it was the best artistic podcast on Spotify I was surprised to hear, in the introduction to Omondis and the conclusion of the interview, added in post-production afterwards, that the framing was not about Medine Cohen’s ignorance or even his cancellation. Instead, Omondi focused on his Jewishness.
As we know this country was founded by racist white men, and for the sake of this episode it is important to note that many of these white men, slave owners et cetera, were also Jews and also considered the Black as less than human, Omondi says, about nothing, without explanation or analysis or explicit connection to Medine Cohen. (While there were Jews in the slave trade, several historians have concluded that their role was minimal, and to claim otherwise is a anti-semitic duck.)
Later, in the conclusion, Omondi more explicitly defines Medine Cohen’s privilege in terms of Jewishness. I couldn’t stand another assimilated American Jewish princess who is wildly privileged but thinks she is oppressed, she says, using a term widely seen as derogatory. If I had a dime for every time a fashionable Jewish girl was like, Oh my god, my nose is so big like yours, oh my god, my fr-jew, it’s so bad at the end of the day you’re going to get your nose and keratin treatments done and your last name changed from Ralph Lipshitz to Ralph Lauren and you’ll be fine.
The episode also hooks up to an unattributed clip of someone saying that Jews were slaves too, but you don’t hear us complaining about it all the time. It seems the quote may have come from Medine Cohen, or someone else Jewish; it is in fact a Youtube video 2012 by the non-Jewish actress Franchesca Ramsey, who since disowned the joke.
It’s shocking to hear Omondi criticize Medine Cohens’ Judaism as the source of his entitlement when there is so much more to be said about his rise and fall. While Medine Cohen touched on his Judaism in the interview, incorporating it into his bloody history, religion functions as the backdrop, not the cause, of Medine Cohen’s struggles. She’s not talking about anti-Semitism, for example; instead, his stories show how privilege works inside the Jewish world, like the Ashke standard (Medine Cohen’s parents are Iranian and Turkish immigrants).
While the podcast episode gained wide acclaim on the internet, where many people discussed Medine Cohens’ revelations about his wealth in disbelief, a small crowd began to complain about the anti-Semitic stereotypes employed by Omondi.
A masterclass on anti-Semitism. Dodes (@racheld) July 13, 2021
I want to acknowledge that I understand that Leandra does not represent ALL Jews or the wider culture, whatever it is, Omondi posted on his Instagram story the day after the podcasts were released, warning that anti-Semitic comments would be removed. If I see petty hatred for the sake of hatred towards Jews on this account, you either missed the episode or you are completely missing the point.
She later closed all comments on an Instagram post about the episode. On Monday evening, the episode was re-edited to remove comments on the Jewish slave owners and the American Jewish princess.
Omondi does not recognize the edit or change on any of its social media accounts.
In any case, Medine Cohen does plenty to get along without needing stereotypes. (I remember sitting in the car with [my husband] Abie and my children, thinking to myself, like, I didn’t grow up poor. I, like, actually grew rich, she said, with a hiccup at one point.)
The nose jobs and references to Ralph Lauren’s name change distract from the real conversation. There are so many rich social commentaries to dig into, how was Medine Cohen able to speak for 90 minutes without taking responsibility for even unconscious racism? How could she remain so obtuse despite a multitude of anti-racist book clubs and performative alliances? Anti-Semitism distracts attention from the real conversation.
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