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Female Athletes Face Three Times More Online Abuse Than Men

Female athletes face three times more abuse on social media than male athletes, new research has confirmed. 

A report, compiled by Plan International Australia, analysed 1,300 comments on Facebook posts shared by major news broadcasters including Network 10, the ABC and Fox Sports.

Almost 27 percent of them were negative towards sportswomen, compared to eight percent towards their male counterparts.

Those comments targeting women were overwhelming sexist.

The report came one after Tayla Harris faced a tirade of abuse over this phenomenal photo. Image: AFL.

About 23 percent were described as being "sexist in nature" and negatively referred to gender stereotypes, with remarks such as "stick to netball", "women should be in the kitchen" or "shut up lady, the footy is on".

About 20 percent of comments were derogatory towards women's skills and athleticism, such as "sorry girls ... men do it better" or "it's like watching grass grow". Almost 14 percent of them were sexual in nature.

READ MORE: The Big Difference Between The 'Sexual Abuse' Of Dusty And Tayla

Comparatively, while some men were subject to sexist abuse or gender stereotypes, the majority of comments towards them focused on cheating or drugs.

The results -- that were long suspected -- came a month after AFLW star Tayla Harris faced a wave of abuse over a photo celebrating her phenomenal form.

The 7AFL social account deleted (and later reposted) the photo after it was flooded by "inappropriate", "offensive" and "reprehensible" comments.

Harris later said the comments she saw "were sexual abuse".

"It was repulsive and it made me uncomfortable," she told reporters.

"It isn't about me now ... it's about a way bigger picture."

READ MORE: The Big Difference Between The 'Sexual Abuse' Of Dusty And Tayla

READ MORE: Removed AFL Photo Was Attacked With 'Reprehensible' Comments By 'Animals' 

The online abuse Harris faced drew attention to the blatant sexism rife in female sport -- and she's not alone.

Serena Williams has endured endless comments about her looks, while Liesel Jones and countless other female athletes have been trolled for their weight.

Even sports reporters like SBS presenter Lucy Zelic aren't safe, who copped endless criticism last year for correctly pronouncing the names of international soccer players.

Serena Williams. Image: Getty

Plan International Australia CEO Susanne Legena said this also has serious implications for girls and young women who see the abuse.

"Fear of discrimination and abuse is silencing girls and young women, restricting them from speaking out, participating and leading everywhere from social media forums to politics," she said.

"Everyone in our community has a responsibility to combat this toxic behaviour every single day by tackling attitudes that reinforce the idea that our girls deserve less respect, fewer opportunities and less pay than our boys."

READ MORE: Serena Williams Aces Haters In A Tutu 

READ MORE: Australia, Why Are We Abusing Lucy Zelic? 

Female athletes, too, have had enough.

"We're not going to tolerate it anymore and you are going to be held accountable for your actions," Zelic told The Project last month.

"Women in sport are here to stay. Support it or don't. It's your children's futures," added basketballer Lauren Jackson.

And this from Aussie netball icon Liz Ellis: "You're either with us or you're in the bin."

Contact the author ebrancatisano@networkten.com.au