I was recently misfortunate enough to spend some time as an inpatient in hospital. While I was there, I was captive audience for RTÉ, who to my horror still give two days of prime time TV coverage to the over-hyped, insipid beauty pageant that is the Rose of Tralee.
My reasons for disliking the Rose of Tralee are far from original. It’s a beauty contest, sexist nonsense, nothing more to it than the “lovely girls competition” that was parodied excellently on Father Ted. The girls get dressed up, laugh prettily at the male host’s witless jokes, and recite a poem about how much they love their homeland before, demure and docile, they waltz off the stage. The Rose of Tralee website, of course, oversells the event, claiming that “A Rose reflects the intelligence, compassion and independence of modern Irish women,” and “represents the collective aspirations, social responsibilities and ambitions of young women.” To any woman who is intelligent, independent, compassionate and has meaningful aspirations, this is downright insulting and condescending. If any of the “Roses” were endowed with wonderful, inspiring qualities, they were given no chance to display them. They stood on stage while the male host delivered tired “look at all these lovely girls” clichés, and simpered while they patiently waited to get a word in edgeways.
A few days ago on Twitter I noticed a phrase that was starting to crop up. It was the hashtag “Inspiring Women”. People were tweeting the names and histories of women who inspired them. Some of the women were overtly feminist, while others were leaders or pioneers in their particular field. I started to wonder who I could pinpoint as my own feminist inspiration. There was no clear key moment when I began to identify as feminist. I thought maybe it stemmed from my interest in the music of Destiny's Child in my younger years. I enjoyed their lyrics espousing female financial and emotional empowerment. Looking back on it now it seems hard to argue the relevance of these things to a 12 year old living in a pink and white bedroom lovingly furnished by their parents. But I felt that I could identify with the songs anyway, and their image of female friendship and fun.
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