Here’s Why I’m Glad The Tayla Harris Pic Was Trolled

Tayla Harris

We all know about this now, but to catch you up: the 7AFL Instagram account posted this incredible pic of Carlton gun Tayla Harris, as captured by sports photographer Michael Willson, fuckwit trolls said gross things about it, 7AFL took it down.

[jwplayer G1osSm72]

Many people rightfully got the shits and said that wasn’t the way to handle it, the pic went back up and they “promised to ban trolls”, and the image has since been lauded as iconic and re-shared countless times. Oh, and most importantly it’s started a real national conversation about sexism in sport.

Which is why I’m so glad that the trolling happened in the first place. Of course I am furious on behalf Tayla who had to read those vile comments about herself, reducing her to a sexual object when she was committing the huge crime of — gasp! — doing her job and kicking a footy. It should be noted that Tayla didn’t publicly get sad about it, she just owned it with this spectacular tweet:

And of course the whole thing makes me sick and I wish it didn’t happen, but it did so I’m taking the silver lining out of it. Because this incident has opened up a huge conversation about sexism in sport and trolling on social media. Which is a good thing.

It reminds me of the booing of Indigenous Sydney Swans player Adam Goodes back in 2015 after he spoke up about racist football spectators screaming disgusting insults at him while he was, once again, just doing his job and kicking the bloody footy.

It’s also like that iconic image from a 1993 match of Indigenous player Nicky Winmar taking on racist spectators by raising his St Kilda guernsey to point to the colour of his skin after scoring a goal, which has been immortalised as a statue and will be displayed in his home state of WA in the grounds at Optus Stadium.

Credit: Sunday Age / Wayne Ludbey

These were deeply shameful times in Aussie sport that led to an extremely important national conversation. And that’s what this trolling fiasco has become.

What happened to Tayla is a huge, very public example of what women go through constantly, just because of our gender. We’re not doing anything wrong, we’re not hurting anyone, we’re just living our lives and BAM! a sexist comment or treatment just comes out of nowhere.

Western Bulldogs legend Bob Murphy said on TV show AFL 360 last night that when the story first broke he sighed and said “Really? Is this where we’re at now?”.  And that very “fed up” comment really sums up how this situation is such an embarrassment for football and such an embarrassment for our Aussie society, that people would actually talk like this. But it’s put the magnifying glass on misogyny and how it runs rampant on social media.

Even when the pic was put back up and re-shared, some comments from male social media users weren’t sexual in the least but still hugely offensive to Tayla and to female footy players. I read comments like “bet that kick went like 10m” (FYI it was a brilliant goal, actually) and “why is this on the AFL account? It should be on the AFLW” (AFLW is part of the AFL in general, dipshits) and “when will there be men’s netball teams?” (lol is this “inequality” really the hill you’re going to die on? Because I can come back with countless more examples of gender inequality in sport if you want.)

It was so saddening and maddening to me to read these comments, especially when I clicked through to the accounts and they were coming from young men and teenage boys. I have so much hope for the next generation of kids coming through, like the Climate Change protesters and Egg Boy. But then I see young people spitting out misogyny like this and I just feel tired. Like Bob Murphy said, is this really where we’re at now?

Tayla has been thrust into the spotlight as an of advocate for women in footy and women in general, but luckily she’s fine with speaking out. She’s using what happened as a powerful message to represent everything the female athletes are up against. And Tayla has countless other people, men and women, both in footy and outside the game, very publicly backing her as well. Which is incredible. It can’t just be one person screaming into the void, it takes many people saying “this isn’t okay” for these idiots to get it through their heads that behaving like this isn’t okay.

There’s been overwhelming condemnation of the trolls and of 7AFL for deleting the pic, which is why they put it back on their account and swore they’d take action against these commenters. The image is being shared again and again and will no doubt go down in history as one of the iconic AFL images. Not an AFLW image, but an AFL image.

Like with racism, homophobia and transphobia in sport, the battle is far from over. In fact, with AFLW currently in its third season, the battle has just begun. But it’s a battle women will keep fighting, so thank you trolls for making the conversation front page news. You played yourselves, suckers.