I loved the Rose of Tralee as a child. As an adult, I laughed at it but secretly loved it a little (just a little), mostly for the nostalgic element. And now as a parent, I'm not sure where I stand. Or if I need to stand anywhere.
|it's a lovely girls competition (image credit serieszodes.com)|
Is it twee but harmless? Is it degrading? Is it sending the wrong message to little girls?
Is that taking it all too seriously?
Is it all about nostalgia – is that why it’s still there? If it was a new concept, a new show, people would be incredulous perhaps, but because it reminds us of childhood and seasons changing and wishful thinking, many of us have a secret fondness?
As a mother of two young girls (and one young boy – but they’re not letting boys in yet), I am looking at it in a new light. That said, I haven’t identified what that light is illuminating for me just yet.
Over the years The Rose of Tralee has been something to laugh at, albeit gently. It's not the kind of event that draws visceral, angry, emotional responses from viewers.
It is more likely to inspire the kind of dry, humorous, cynical tweets that fill up our timelines every Friday night when the Late Late Show returns (another signal that Autumn has arrived)
But what kind of message is it sending to young girls? What does it teach them about what we value? And yes, it's far removed from a traditional beauty pageant. It's not based on "looks". There is no "swimsuit" section.
It's about personality, talent, career, charity work - all that good stuff. From the organizers, we are told that:
A Rose reflects the intelligence, compassion and independence of modern Irish women
A Rose represents the collective aspirations, social responsibilities
and ambitions of young women from a variety of communities and backgrounds,
united by their desire to celebrate their Irish heritage
But when my two little girls see thirty women in long gowns parading on and off a stage, lining up side by side adorned with sashes for photos and judges, how will it look to them? I'm not sure. I'm not asking as a rhetorical question to make a point - I'm asking as a genuine question.
The focus is on achievement and talent but let’s not pretend it’s not also at least a little about how the girls look – none of the Roses turn up in jeans, no make-up and hair scraped back in a ponytail.
|not a pair of jeans in sight (image credit rsvp magazine)|
But then again isn’t that what little girls dream of…nobody is trying to suggest that brides shouldn’t wear beautiful wedding gowns if that’s what they wish, and most do.
Nobody frowns on school graduates choosing to glam up for a debs ball (though a look of bemusement may be cast towards the money spent today, especially from those of us who “debuted” pre-boom).
And many mothers of small girls are familiar with trying to coax their aspiring princesses out of pretty dresses and into more practical leggings, for a trip to a woodchip strewn playground.
Are we fighting nature by railing against shows like the Rose of Tralee? Or is it the other way around – are little girls the way they are because of this culture of celebrating female beauty and glamour?
I guess, as they say, it’s a little from column A and a little from column B. Or maybe a lot from column B.
But I think Rhianna and Barbie and Princess Sofia are influencing our little girls more than a beauty pageant that’s not really a beauty pageant in Kerry every August.
And in that context, the Rose of Tralee is arguably the lesser of the evils (and by evil I especially mean you Barbie)