Archive for February 26, 2014

The Disney Effect at the Sochi Olympics:
Why I was disappointed with the American figure skaters


The Sochi Olympics finally wrapped on Sunday, but I have a feeling that we won’t be forgetting the highs…

  •        • Tara Lipinski’s and Johnny Weir’s swag-fabulous coverage
  •        • Adelina Sotnikova’s you-can’t-look-away skating

Or the lows…

…any time soon.

As much as I fear the reprecussions of admitting this, one of the lows for me had to do with the American figure skaters, specifically the female figure skaters.

No, I don’t care that they didn’t medal—they all skated well and made the U.S. look good by finishing in the top ten.

And, no, I don’t think there’s any big controversy behind the scoring.

(And I’m kind of horrified that everyone keeps challenging who won which medals—both in the women’s figure skating competition and in the pairs dancing competition. If Americans don’t think judges have been biased about scoring figure skating for years, then they’ve probably been munching on too many of the brownies their friends from Washington and Colorado have been mailing them. Also, it sounds more than a little like sour grapes.)

But what I do care about is how we, as Americans, present ourselves to the world.

And that’s why I was kind of horrified by how insanely alike all of our female figure skaters looked in Sochi—they were all white, they were all blonde, they all wore heavy makeup, and they all wore enough sequins that if they stood together in a line Sandra Bullock could probably see them from space.


It was as if they’d all been made in the same Disney princess factory, which really frightened me.

(In case you didn’t watch, no, the other female figure skaters did not all look this way.)

It frightened me because it made me worry that viewers around the globe would think all Americans want to look this way—and that we all want to be the same and/or that we only value one kind of beauty, a message I’ve been trying to counteract for years.

It also made me wonder—do these young women look so much alike because more and more young American women want to look the same???

I probably don’t have to tell you that idea truly terrifies me.

(And, no, it doesn’t matter to me that plenty of the American skiers and hockey players proved otherwise because, let’s be honest, the majority of viewers only tune in for the individual figure skating.)

I know my comments here today will likely ruffle a few feathers—after all the body acceptance movement is about accepting ALL bodies, not just the ones I want to emulate—but I’m not criticizing their bodies. I’m simply challenging their lack of individuality and the idea that we all have to look the same.

And I’m really hoping that in the 2018 Olympics I’ll be able to cheer for the American figure skater who doesn’t look like a cross between Kate Hudson and Cinderella.

Sundance Film Fest wrap-up: disappointing vampires, surprising anti-ladies, and inspiring warriors

sundance iwnd logoBetter late than never, Leah Railey’s last three reviews of films at Sundance…


Only Lovers Left Alive

This movie was not what I expected.

I saw a trailer for Only Lovers Left Alive (directed by Jim Jarmusch) a few months ago and expected an interesting new take on vampire romance stories.

In a way that’s what I got.

The film follows a vampire couple that looks and acts too fabulous. With a cast led by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, the rest of the actors were sure to be equally fashionable and trendy.

However, Only Lovers Left Alive did little for me as cinephile and even less for me as a feminist, but the movie was beautifully made and looked a lot better than it actually was.



Wetlands, directed by David Wnendt, is officially one of my favorite films.

The film very quickly suggests that it is an argument against the social construct of what it means to be a “lady,” because the mother of the main character, Helen, mentions in the beginning that ladies are clean but the main character is anything but that. She enjoys using public bathrooms, letting her “natural odor” be like perfume, and not letting germs control her life the way a lot of people do.

In that way, Wetlands gives viewers an alternative to the clean, pure, and polite “lady” character we are all supposed to love.

While I do not think it is necessary to replace the social construction of what makes someone a “lady” with another construction of an “anti-lady,” it is a film that finally gives us something other than the pretty-but-quirky woman we traditionally see in independent film.


The Case Against 8


This emotional documentary, directed by Ryan White and Ben Cotner, follows two couples as they try to fight against Prop 8 in California, detailing the struggles they faced as individuals and giving an intimate account of the legal process as well.

While it remained as unbiased as possible, The Case Against 8 quickly became emotional for me and had me in tears the entire time. For that reason, it’s a must-see if you want to see why the fight for LGBTQ equality is still both necessary and hopeful.



Leah sitting on a bench made out of ice at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

LEAH RAILEY is a senior at Western Kentucky University majoring in creative writing and minoring in gender and women’s studies. Born and raised in Georgia, Leah considers Kentucky her second home. In her free time, Leah watches Netflix and Hulu (her favorite show right now is Scandal) and claims she reads too many fashion magazines. She has written articles for zines and the WKU Herald, focusing on issues relating to race, class, and gender.

Plus-size fashion finally included in New York fashion week

A few pieces from Eden Miller's collection.

A few pieces from Eden Miller’s collection.

Spring fashion week was this week, and I usually enjoy reading all of the fashion blogs with runway shots and the best New York “street” fashion. I usually call my mom and yell happiness into her ear about the new dress I saw that was absolutely fabulous.

This all started when I was about twelve years old, and I was sure that one day I would be a fashion designer. I would pick up these large one-pound fashion catalogs like Vogue‘s September issue from Borders, and while my mom studied for her GRE, I would study cuts and fabrics and styles.

I drew pictures of thick women in my favorite preppy clothes and would show them to my parents. They told everyone at church about it and made me feel like a real artist, even though I know now those drawings were completely horrible and am somewhat embarrassed about them.

When I was about fourteen I stopped drawing or designing for a while, but secretly I still marked up fashion magazines and doodled in the margins of my history notes.

But, for some reason, when I finally returned to designing, my models went from thick and curvy to tall and slim like the models I had seen in New York Fashion Week. Not just a few of them were skinny, but ALL of them.

It wasn’t until college that I realized this, and then I went back to drawing models of all sizes—curvy models, thin models, athletic models, and more.

Looking back, I can see that within a ten-year span I managed to recognize a norm of who were expected to be fashionable and then realize that norm wasn’t reality. My clothing wasn’t even wearable for a person my size (size 16-18). I realized that it had to change, and I wanted to make clothes that I wanted to wear and that I could wear.

I’ve only recently realized that this year was the first year I did not keep up with fashion week the way I normally do. When I did look up some of the highlights, I was surprised to find a line of clothes specifically targeted towards plus-size women. Eden Miller’s collection was the first-ever designer collection to feature a plus-size line. I was also upset that it was largely overshadowed by news of one designer’s style or another designer’s fabric choice. The inclusion of plus-size fashion in one of the largest fashion events is something that should have happened years ago.

—by Leah Railey

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