What’s up with ‘that picture’ of Tayla Harris?


So, back in March of 2019, the Crows had had a big win over Carlton in the Grand Final, in a thrilling match that broke attendance records, with over 53,000 spectators.

It was an amazing milestone for the AFL Women's, showing just how popular the league was becoming and how passionate its fans were.

But not all news around the AFLW was entirely positive that year…

In the lead up to the grand final, there was a lot of conversation about this image:

Tweet from Tayla Harris with a photo of her playing AFL with her right leg high up in the air. The caption says Here's a pic of me at work...think about this before your derogatory comments, animals.

Why was there was so much conversation about it...? Because of the comments that were made about it online.

Basically, a whole lotta people said some really disgusting and sexualised stuff about the image of Tayla Harris – a professional athlete performing at a phenomenal standard in the AFLW. This should have been an image celebrating sporting excellence – Harris is an elite Australian athlete, not only a star of the AFLW but also one of the world’s highest ranked female boxers. Instead, it became a target for horrendous gendered online abuse and sexual harassment.

It was pretty obvious that these kinds of comments would never be made about an image of a male player, and a glaring example of the sexism that women face in sport, and on social media generally.

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While the comments around the Tayla Harris image were bad enough, things got worse when the Seven Network decided to remove the image because of the comments being made.

This sent the wrong message to everyone (that is, that if enough people troll a post in a disgusting enough way, the response will be to remove the post – rather than address the trolling!). Fortunately, Seven shortly after decided to repost the image, with an apology attached.

Seven also said that they would work harder in the future to deal with trolls, hopefully making it an experience to be learned from, and less likely to happen in the future.

Also encouraging was the number of people that came forward to show their support for Tayla and more generally highlight and speak out against sexist online abuse – from fellow AFLW and AFL players, athletes and legends of footy and other sports and codes, as well as commentators, sports executives and politicians.

Importantly, as well as these high-profile advocates, there was a general groundswell of people voicing just how tired they were with the kind of sexist, aggressive and misogynist trolling we too often see towards women online. Another happy ending to this story – on 11 September 2019, a bronze statue immortalising the image of Tayla was unveiled in Federation Square, Melbourne.

The famous kick of AFLW player Tayla Harris has been immortalised in a bronze statue (AAP: David Crosling)
The famous kick of AFLW player Tayla Harris has been immortalised in a bronze statue (AAP: David Crosling)

Remember, using social media to make uninvited comments to bring someone down, particularly if it’s in an aggressive or sexualised way, is basically never appropriate or respectful. If you see something inappropriate, report it. If you feel comfortable, you can also shut it down or call it out to show it’s not acceptable.

If you are experiencing or want to know more about trolling, online harassment or technology facilitated abuse, visit the eSafety Commissioner website.

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