Sexist comments on woman in Lynx space race prompts online campaign to shoot her to the top

16 Sep 2013

Roshini 'Rose' Muniam (photo via AXE Malaysia on Facebook)

The Lynx/Axe brand is going to great lengths to promote its new Apollo range – as far as outer space, even. Through its Apollo Space Academy competition, regular citizens across the world have been offered the chance to travel to space, but one female contestant from Malaysia has attracted both a wave of sexism and a counter-campaign backing her to win.

Here we call it Lynx while other markets know it as Axe. Whatever name you know it by, the men’s grooming brand has been holding a lengthy global contest over the past few months offering the chance for one lucky winner to go to space. Chances are, this trip will take place aboard the Lynx rocketship, a suborbital spacecraft built by California-based XCOR to carry one pilot, one passenger and a payload above 100km altitude.

Roshini Muniam, nicknamed Rose, is a 27-year-old college lecturer in the University of Malaya.  After a series of challenges, she has been selected as one of five finalists in the Malaysian leg of the competition and is now competing to make it to the final round of 22 contestants from around the world.

The race to become ‘the world’s first Axe-tronaut’ is largely a social media campaign by the brand and is heavily promoted through its various regional Facebook pages. Unfortunately, Muniam’s photo among the final five on the Axe Malaysia Facebook account attracted negative and downright sexist comments against a woman potentially winning the competition over a man.

“Women should be rejected… it is only for males… if your tampon burst while you are in space, the entire spacecraft will be spoilt,” is just one of the misogynistic comments, translated by The Malaysian Insider.

Muniam, however, is undeterred and addressed her detractors in the comments. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” she wrote. “I am all out to win this competition because I want to inspire ordinary people to have extraordinary dreams & goals.”

Roshini 'Rose' Muniam's photo and her response to negative comments on the AXE Malaysia Facebook page

If you view Muniam’s photo on the Axe Malaysia Facebook page today, you’ll have to search hard to find negative comments as they have since been drowned out by a wave of support from the online community railing against the sexist remarks. Many of the commentors refer to a Tumblr campaign of support for Muniam.

The Axe Malaysia finalist will be announced on Tuesday 17 September. This candidate will then move onto the next round among 22 finalists facing off against each other in Florida. At the time of writing, Muniam is top of the rankings with 119,588 votes. Her closest competitor is Mohammad Adam Bin Tun Tuah with 109,488 votes.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.