Astronaut aspirant Roshini Muniam (pic), who was the target of sexist comments online, said their remarks have only strengthened her resolve to win a spot at a space camp in Florida, USA.
Roshini said she is not about to let the insults on Facebook prevent her from attempting to become Malaysia's first female astronaut.
The only female among five finalists in the Malaysian segment of Axe deodorant's Apollo Space Race competition, Roshini said the support she received after the attacks has made her even more determined to succeed.
"The mean sexists comments did make me angry, but I prefer to keep calm and stay cool. The supportive comments I received made me realise I was not alone in my quest to reduce the gender gap. That made me feel more motivated to persevere," she told The Malaysian Insider today.
The contestants underwent a series of challenges which tested their mental strength and endurance. The pictures of the top five, including Roshini, were posted online. Visitors to the page were asked to vote for their favourite to decide who goes to the next stage in Florida.
The Malaysian Insider had reported that when voting began, KL girl Roshini was discriminated against and insulted on her profile featured in Axe's Facebook page because she was female.
A comment posted by Syed Wazien expressed surprise at a woman's desire to go to space while another, by Dimitriy Mirovsky, was more insulting, saying that women should be prohibited from the competition as they menstruate.
The degrading remarks were subsequently removed.
Outraged netizens rallied behind Roshini, and she even caught the attention of YouTube sensation Tyler Oakley, who encouraged his followers to vote for her.
Her votes soared from about 3,000 on Thursday to 81,637 (as of 5pm today), establishing a lead of about 10,000 votes over her nearest rival.
Roshini, 27, said she braced herself to face challenging situations the moment she decided to try her luck in the competition.
"Contestants had to complete challenging tasks during the semi-finals to get into the Top 5. It would be a waste to let such comments interrupt my focus," she said.
She said the competition was a chance for regular people to go to space.
"I want to set an example for ordinary people to have extraordinary dreams. I want to inspire youths around the world to put their dreams into action and make them a reality".
The competition closes next Tuesday and the winner will be announced on September 24. Only 22 candidates from various countries will be selected for the final rounds in Florida. - September 15, 2013.