The first group comprises those who believe that the Rose of Tralee is merely an awful vestige of an “old Ireland” that is, in their minds, thankfully long gone. They ridicule it as a “lovely girls competition” and criticize the Irish media for giving it blanket coverage. A further aspect of the Rose of Tralee many in this group can’t abide is that many of the participants are members of the Irish diaspora in the US. They disdainfully imitate the accents of the American Roses and, although these Roses are often first generation Americans, mock the extent, or distance thereof, of their Irish connections. They need to lighten up and focus their negativity elsewhere. And in some cases, judging by their familiarity with what’s happened in Tralee, they need to stop sneaking peaks at something they profess to hate.
I accept the sincerity of the feminists who oppose the Rose of Tralee on principle. Writing in the Irish Independent this week, columnist Colette Browne complains that the competition exalts “society’s archetypal brand of femininity” and is “about as contemporary as a telegram.” I can’t help but think, however, that there is absolutely nothing about this competition that demeans women. The Roses wear long dresses and are judged not alone on their beauty. There has never been a shred of evidence that any contestant was less than thrilled to take part – before or afterward. I believe that the Rose of Tralee is an excellent platform for accomplished young women who are superb role models for girls. In my view, the two nights are a welcome antidote to the relentless onslaught of perverse, grossly unrealistic notions of what it means to be a woman on television, in movies and on the internet that girls (and boys) are now subjected to.
In the end, those who dislike the Rose of Tralee are perfectly entitled to their opinions. But I’ll always be a fan. I just hope the Boston Rose wins the competition at some point in the not too distant future so that I can recoup the money I’ve lost to Paddy Power over the years!