The Big Difference Between The 'Sexual Abuse' Of Dusty And Tayla
The aftermath of the Tayla Harris situation has been fantastic.
It’s brought in to the public eye the terrible comments that female athletes receive while playing the game they love, and made clear the need for change.
It’s a moment that will be remembered as a pivotal point in the growth of the AFLW, and the treatment of female athletes in general. In 10 years from now, I'm certain we will be hearing interviews from players saying it all started when they hung that poster of their idol Tayla Harris in their room.
As I said, the aftermath has shown some very promising signs. But of course, there’s resistance.
I’ve seen a number of comments made by women about a photo of 2017 Brownlow Medalist Dustin Martin. Images of these comments have been shared across social media by men asking a pretty common question: “Where’s the equality?”
For those unaware, there was a photo of Dustin Martin at training, ball in hand, evading a tackle in his usual manner. Beneath there are a number of comments. The ones that are being bought into question include the following: "Get your lips around those thighs", "It's a shame about the underwear”, "Sexy Boy", "I can almost see up his shorts!", "this is hot” and "marry me”.
You get the idea.
Given the response to the comments on Tayla’s photos, many men are now asking what the difference is here. How is it fair that women players can call out the trolls, yet Dusty just accepts it?
It’s a common question whenever we discuss behaviours towards women. There are always the men that say, "Well I'm okay with being treated like this, so it’s their problem”.
This view that if women want to be treated as equals they should be fine with being treated like men is so incorrect. It isn’t even close to equality. Thinking that everyone should be fine with being treated like a man is not equality. Thinking that everyone should accommodate what you are used to when you aren’t willing to accommodate them just isn’t equality.
Now, I'm not condoning these comments. I think the focus should just be on football in both cases, but the fact of the matter is that what we see on Martin’s photo is not the same as what we see on the photo of Harris. No matter how you look at it. We could sit and compare the sheer mass and vulgarity of comments and you’d see how lopsided the negative commentary it is.
You could look at the comparison of likes per comment that show how men use this as a social tool to degrade and bully women.
You could look at the difference in language; I'm not even allowed to print some of the comments that were made on Tayla’s photo because they were that vile.
You could look at the comments that were mocking Tayla for taking part in a game of football. I don’t know Dustin, and this article isn’t about him -- he’s just the example that’s come up, but I highly doubt he’s ever been told not to follow his dream of playing in the AFL because he’s a man.
These comments are not the same because we live in a world where women are degraded or dismissed because of the fact that they are women.
The thing is, Tayla has come out and said she doesn’t feel safe in her workplace following these comments.
On air she said, "The comments that I saw were sexual abuse… it was repulsive and it made me uncomfortable.”
She’s said these comments make her uncomfortable. No matter what your intentions, that right there should be enough that you stop and realise it’s not okay.
These comments make women feel uncomfortable because they come in a world where one in three women experience physical violence by the age of 15 and one in five have experienced sexual violence. They also come in a world where women have been told for too long not to follow their sporting dreams.
Even if you’re saying it as a joke (a lazy excuse of course), the distance between the terrible reality and the joke is too close -- so don’t be surprised when you get the reaction that you do. If you’re going to use free speech as a response mechanism, then these women, and their supporters, have every right to use that exact same free speech in return.
Our female athletes have led the charge and said enough is enough. They don’t like these comments. They’ve said they’re offensive. They’ve said they deserve better. And they do.
So if you’re using the Dusty example to silence their voices I say this: Don’t fabricate an argument you don’t believe in with compassion you don’t have because your way of thinking is being challenged.
As a bloke I’ll never know how it feels to deal with the scrutiny women are constantly placed under. But if you actually listen and view women as equals capable forming of their own opinions, then the bare minimum you can do is not dismiss how they feel.