By Annie Persons
I recently finished reading a memoir called Man Repeller by Leandra Medine. I tend to feel like I’m cheating on my classes when I read for pleasure during the academic term, not to mention the fact that that, at first glance, the book seemed to focus mainly on Leandra’s coming of age as a wannabe fashion designer. But a friend recommended it, and I’m glad she did. Although I know many of you will not read the book, I want to talk about the inspiration behind man-repelling.
If you want Leandra’s definition of the phrase, I hereby direct you to http://www.manrepeller.com/2010/04/what-is-man-repeller.html. Be warned: the blog is mainly about fashion. I don’t follow style trends (it’s not that I don’t appreciate them, they just doesn’t concern me), although I know and respect that Leandra and many others view fashion as an art.
The concept of man-repelling came into being when Leandra went out on a blind date and was told by her male suitor that the “harem pants” she was wearing were “unflattering…and weird.” Rather than wallowing in this offense, or perhaps throwing out the harem pants and replacing them with tight jeans, Leandra decided that she didn’t care. She felt good in her harem pants. She liked them. From this moment of bold self-empowerment, an inspirational blog was born.
Whether or not you see fashion as silly or artistic, I think that the concept of man- repelling is an interesting and inspiring one. So often in this day and age, we censor ourselves—not according to the rules of morality (the bottom-line rules of being a human, I would argue)—but according to what society tells us is “normal.” I’ve recently started asking myself if I like something because I genuinely like it, or because I think X or Y person would like it. I’ll save a tweet to drafts because I’m worried people will think it goes against the societal norms. I feel the need to tailor my free writes in class for fear that I’ll be called on to read. But how can great writing exist without that original rawness that comes from freedom of expression?
Thus, with Man Repeller in mind, I think of personal expression in a new and necessary light. I want to find a place in the literary world. This means finding my own voice and writing style, as well as figuring out what I really want to read and study. There are certain speculative poems that I read that people might think are strange, but I love them because they take me back to the fantasy worlds that I believed in when I was little. Similarly, there are times when I really am that overzealous student who read “Ariel” four (or five times) before class, not for a grade, but because I enjoyed it. I shouldn’t care if people think of me as an English nerd: I am an English nerd.
I am also a writer. Man Repeller’s message feels important, and I dedicate this blog post to all the writers, artists, fashionistas, English nerds, regular nerds, and anyone who feels like they’re holding back. Don’t be afraid to repel people with your own authenticity. I’m not talking about mechanics, nor am I suggesting that you grow careless with your craft. I’m talking about being yourself, and writing yourself—writing from that vital blood-place inside of you that keeps you alive. That’s all that really matters.