A lifelong dream to travel in space could very well come true for one Malaysian woman, Roshini Muniam, a 27-year-old postgraduate lecturer, if she can overcome sexist harassment and get enough votes. AXE Malaysia is holding a competition to send one lucky Malaysian to Space Camp in Florida, who will then go on to compete with other international winners to secure a trip into space. The candidate pool has been narrowed down to five candidates; Muniam is the only female who has made it past all the hurdles to become a finalist.
It hasn’t been easy for her to get this far. Muniam has been targeted by Facebook commenters who are outraged that a woman is competing in a contest they believe was meant for men. A comment by Syed Wazien illustrates the nature of these remarks.
“Banyak lagi competition untuk female only kat luar tu lady.. (there are many other competitions for females out there, lady) don’t ruin what’s intended or most considered to be men only chance?”
Another commenter, Dimitriy Mirovsky, had choice words to say about a woman’s suitability for space travel.
“Women should be rejected… it is only for males… if your tampon burst while you are in space, the entire spacecraft will be spoilt.”
Despite these set-backs, Muniam remains confident, calling the negative comments “sticks and stones,” and says that she is “out to win this competition because I want to inspire ordinary people to have extraordinary dreams & goals.” (The Malaysian Insider)
Watch Roshini Muniam’s video for the AXE astronaut competition.
Muniam’s quest to become the first Malaysian woman in space has found backing on Tumblr, where, thanks to blogger Tyler Oakley’s support, a post about her has gone viral. Support for Muniam has skyrocketed since. Before Tumblr, she was suffering from a 20,000 deficit in votes; in just a few days, the number of votes she has received has risen to 100,000.
Supporters of Muniam’s quest have made a new hashtag on twitter to popularize the campaign: #Rose4Space. Despite this, she is in a neck-to-neck race with Adam Tun Tuah, another contestant, who at the time of writing, is only about 3,000 votes behind her. Adam has media backing and has run a well-publicized campaign, while Roshini’s support is mostly grassroots. (Adam’s hashtag is #rocketboy.)
Voting in AXE Malaysia’s competition is taking place on Facebook. The competition ends on Tuesday, September 17.
Jaya Sundaresh lives in Hartford, Connecticut. She grew up in various parts of the Northeast before deciding to study political science at McGill University. Follow her on Twitter at @anedumacation and read her thoughts on her personal blog.