Let me preface this piece by saying that what I am about to write is entirely my opinion, borne from my own experience of the Cork Rose Selection 2015 – it does not represent or purport to represent the views of anyone involved in the Rose Selection process, it is just my free opinion, my two cents if you will. I have decided to write this in response to some of the negativity I have been experiencing online since taking part in the Cork Rose Selection earlier this year.
The Rose Selection, I’m sure many participants will agree, is not the typical beauty pageant which many online warriors paint it as. It does not display itself as such either. For me, the Rose selection was so many different things. It was a chance for me to step out of my comfort zone, it was an opportunity to foster links and network with other young women who have similar interests to me. it was a chance for me to represent the fantastic charity Suicide Aware and get their message out there, it was a chance for me to be celebrated by others for overcoming obstacles that I don’t always admit are there. And of course, it was fun opportunity to experience a lot of cool things I would have never had the chance to had I not entered – including the Rose Tour around Cork and the Mallow Races too! It also gave me a number of opportunities after the process had ended that may not have been open to me had I not participated.
It does what it says on the tin. It celebrates young, inspirational, educated, independent women in a modern Ireland. What is wrong with that? I remember the words of one of the organisers on the Friday night before we went on stage, “There is no winner, there is a representative of Cork. By having the courage to walk in the door tonight, you are all winners regardless”. It sounds cheesy but its true. And that was the message we got continuously throughout the selection process.
Each county/State Rose is seen as a representative of other women in her locality. What I personally found about being a Rose is that you can be someone who can act as a role model for others, that taking part in the process is a challenge in itself and that anyone who has put themselves forward for it should be proud and is always considered a Rose – it takes a lot of guts to believe in yourself in a country where begrudgery is a common pass-time for many.
I have been personally offended by the number of friends of mine who have referred to it as a “misogynistic barn dance by a bunch of lovely girls on a stage in Tralee”. Having taken part in the Cork Rose selection this year, I actually find it massively insulting that it’s compared to the “lovely girls competition”. It is far from misogynistic. We celebrate strong, inspiring, independent young women who can be a role model for others.
Others have launched attacks on what they perceive to be complete financial support by RTE for the festival, and that any charity work carried out is only undertaken by the woman who is crowned Rose of Tralee. In my estimations, both of these accusations are inaccurate. The Festival and its accompanying air time are mostly supported by the sponsors and advertisers. Some may forget that the Festival is a fantastic opportunity for Irish companies to export their brand across the globe for a week in early August. If I may say so, it is a great example of guerrilla advertising by Newbridge Silverware!!
In terms of charity work, there is constant charitable work being undertaken both during and after the selection process by those who continue to stay involved in the group. During my time in the Cork Rose selection, we fundraised for Breaking the Silence and Pieta House. And even after the Cork Rose selection was finished, we continued our charitable efforts for the Dessie Fitzgerald Injury Fund. Furthermore, in Tralee, my fellow participants took part in the Friends of A 10K, to raise funds for cranial aneurism research. Not to mention the numerous charities who have benefited from air time or stage time with a Rose wearing a sash bearing their name – anther form of guerrilla advertising.
As I said in the outset of this piece, it is just my take on the Cork Rose selection. It may be different to the experience of others, it may not be. But I thought it important enough to write about today, considering the Anti-Rose brigade seem intent on bashing any goodness out of the process, with accusations of misogyny and participants being labeled as “perfect breeding examples”. There is a saying that goes “History is written by the winners”…. Well, this piece of history was written by one of the participants who did not make it to the Dome, and she’s still happy and supportive of the process. So why can’t you be?