The international Rose of Tralee Festival has been ongoing this week from the 14th until last night, when Elysha Brennan of Co Meath was crowned the 2015 Rose of Tralee. The festival started in 1959 as a way to attract tourists to the town of Tralee in County Kerry. The Rose of Tralee name comes from the title of a nineteenth century ballad in which a dude pines for a girl named Mary (the original “Rose”). It takes place every year in August in Tralee and in Irish communities around the world. The competition features a woman, or “Rose” (because women are just beautiful objects apparently) from every county in Ireland, as well as many places internationally with large Irish communities such as Boston, London, Queensland, Philadelphia, and New York.
My question is why does this pageant still need to exist? Yes, of course the festival spokespeople maintain that this is not some Miss America/Toddlers & Tiaras type of thing, that the festival is for celebrating “aspirations, ambitions, intellect, social responsibility and Irish heritage.” But this is still women prancing around in pretty dresses wearing lots of makeup, fake tans, fake hair, and answering questions vaguely. Even on their website, under FAQ, they give a dodgy answer to “Is it a Beauty Pageant?” : “The Rose of Tralee Festival is a multi-faceted event that celebrates the many attributes of modern young Irish women.” So… Maybe? Kind of?
Whatever you want to call it, pitting women against each other in a competition of this sort is sexist and outdated. I mean, if this makes people happy, that’s fine. But they should acknowledge it for what it is and stop trying to pretend that this isn’t about looks. Because you don’t see too many wilted Roses (forgive the pun). I’m sure many of these women really are great and talented and contribute a lot to their communities and whatnot, but we should be able celebrate all these women do without having to judge them based on how they look as well.