Tayla Harris: Double Exposure

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Was this what Sepp Blatter was thinking about when he suggested that women’s soccer could be improved by the players wearing tighter shorts?

The response to 7AFL posting this picture of Carlton Blues player Tayla Harris would suggest that Blatter’s legacy is alive and well, living in basements across the world. Within minutes, offensive comments lit up the Facebook page, and presumably in mild panic that they were essentially hosting an abuse thread, 7AFL pulled the photo.

Later, and after much criticism, they apologised and reposted it.

Yes, it was poorly handled by the league broadcaster and the reminder that for every ten people admiring the beauty of the human form there are a few who feel the need to exercise their inner chimp was unnecessary, but there are plenty of reasons to rejoice in this story. This great photo of an athlete peaking at her sport was worth celebrating. That’s why it was posted. This is the new normal. While the smoke remains thick over the #MeToo battleground, we shouldn’t forget how far we come in a relatively short space of time.

The fact that some people can’t cope with that concept is not what we should be concentrating on here. Women’s sport pushing boundaries and forcing itself into the public consciousness on merit is far more worthy of our attention. Yesterday Barclays announced they would be sponsoring the English Women’s Super League. Earlier this week, Anna Kessel was announced as the editor of the Telegraph’s new Women’s Sport department. Nothing ever changes. Then suddenly, nothing’s the same.

The last few years have offered a rude awakening across Western culture. Only the most rigid can still feign ignorance about how power structures operate. We’ve learned that abusers lie, that cultural icons can be abusive and sexual humiliation is a significant factor in Hollywood casting. When survivors speak, we are far more inclined to listen.

This abrupt shift has threatened the integrity of the entire structure. Women and allies have been quick to exploit the fact that their voices carry equal weight in the online world. Sexual degradation as a device to humiliate and minimise their achievements has been exposed as the last desperate play of a group clinging on to relevance. They can still do it, but they’re merely exposing their failings to a world rapidly losing interest.

Tayla Harris will still feel the burn. She won’t be the only one, as thousands of people facing sexist or transphobic abuse or its ramifications on a daily basis will agree. But finally the voices calling this behaviour out and offering support are getting louder. More incessant. As a result of this event, Harris’s anger and power are magnified. Her image is crossing the globe, inspiring people who believed they were incapable of excellence to realise that haters are an inevitable consequence of success.

There are probably worse outcomes for trolls. But I’m struggling to think of any.

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