Remember when AFLW Carlton forward Tayla Harris got predator trolled simply for doing her job?
In case your memory needs jogging, back in 2019 a photograph taken by AFL Media senior photographer Michael Willson depicted Harris’ powerful kicking style, became subject to floods of vile online commentary.
Here’s a pic of me at work… think about this before your derogatory comments, animals. pic.twitter.com/68aBVVbTTj
— Tayla Harris (@tayla_harris7) March 19, 2019
At the time, Harris correctly identified the harassment as “sexual abuse on social media“. In other words, she was sustaining an injury in an unsafe workplace. And this made what happened an occupational health and safety issue – not just for her, but potentially for every athlete.
The Information session on the Women in Sports Industry partnership scholarships, will be held in person and on-line.
Where: Clive Price Suite (1C50) @University of Canberra When: 27 September 5:30 until 7pm AEST
What: Meet our industry partners and researchers, hear about our research in Women in Sport, and discuss your career goals
Register your attendance by emailing UCSportStrategy@canberra.edu.au
Cyberhate in Australia is no small matter. The nationally representative polling I commissioned from the Australia Institute in 2018 found the upper cost of cyberhate and online harassment to the Australian economy is $3.7 billion. That figure only counts lost income and medical expenses — so the real cost is far greater.
The same polling also showed women were more likely to report receiving threats of sexual assault, violence or death; incitement of others to stalk or threaten them in real life; unwanted sexual messages and publication of their personal details.
Research around the world also repeatedly finds people of colour are attacked more. It further illustrates that being both a woman and a POC makes you extra vulnerable on the Internet.
As I discuss in my best-selling book, Troll Hunting, we know women in the public eye – people including but not limited to: journalists, politicians and sportspeople – are frequently subject to extreme and ongoing cyberhate that leads to real-life harm. In the most egregious cases, they may be killed.
Once I started investigating and reporting on cyberhate in the Australian press back in 2015, Aussie women in sport started telling me their own stories of being hunted online.
These women were not just elite athletes like Tayla, but also female umpires, sports journalists and administrators.
Heather Reid was the former CEO of Capital Football in the ACT. She gave up her career because of extreme and sustained cyberhate, and her organisation did very little to support her.
Although Reid had her day in court and won, her life was impacted in ways the justice system could never repair. She moved away from Canberra – a city she loved – with her partner. Reid also suffered extreme, ongoing health impacts as a result of stress associated with the vitriolic and homophobic online hatred against her.
Back in 2015, she told me: “This is my workplace and nobody should have to put up with abuse or harassment at work.”
One last example: Freelance sports journalist and academic Kate O’Halloran has been the target of trolls on numerous occasions. At one stage, the predator trolling was so severe, O’Hallaron found herself afraid to leave the house.
Like Reid, she cops abuse that not only targets her gender, but her sexuality.
Myself and my colleagues at the University of Canberra concur with Harris, Reid and O’Halloran; we do not believe your gender – or sexuality – should make you unsafe at work (or destroy your career).
What we would like to know is: What’s the scale of this abuse against female athletes, non-binary folks and those working in the sports industry? What forms does gendered abuse take online? What real life harm – for example job losses or physical assaults – does this cyberhate cause? Most importantly, how can we stop it?
Dr Catherine Ordway lectures in sports integrity and ethics at the University of Canberra. (She’ll also be your primary supervisor if you successfully win this scholarship to investigate cyberhate against female and non-binary athletes. I’m also on the advisory panel!)
Dr Ordway says: “Cyber violence against women and girls has now being recognised as, not only a work, health and safety issue, but a broader human rights issue. Sport was designed by and for men.
“The deepest level of toxic, misogynist attacks are reserved for women who ‘dare’ to play, watch and work in sport – particularly if they are non-white, non-binary, and/or non-conformist in the cis heteronormative mould of femininity”.
C’mon. Use the email address above to register your interest. You know you want to! (And it’s important you do.) Or you can email us directly with your queries here: 5050Foundation@canberra.edu.au
- Some passages in this article were taken from a piece I previously wrote for the ABC. They are based on my own original research.
Feature image at top: Women soccer players in a team doing the plank fitness exercise in training together on a practice sports field. Picture: Shutterstock
Ginger Gorman is a fearless and multi award-winning social justice journalist and feminist. Ginger’s bestselling book, Troll Hunting, came out in 2019. Since then, she’s been in demand both nationally and globally as an expert on cyberhate and the real-life harm predator trolling can do. She's also the editor of BroadAgenda and gender editor at HerCanberra. Ginger hosts the popular "Seriously Social" podcast for the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. Follow her on Twitter.