Media personality Ben Fordham has made what he described as an "interesting" comparison between the way male and female athletes are treated on social media in the wake of AFLW star Tayla Harris being embroiled in a viral photo storm.
An image of Harris's follow-through from a drop punt attracted vile comments from trolls after it was posted on Channel 7's social media account, prompting the network to take the photo down. But Harris received a tidal wave of support and Seven re-uploaded the picture, apologising for giving in to the trolls.
The Carlton star spoke about how she felt the comments were "sexual abuse" and her story made headlines not just in Australia, but around the world as she promised to use the incident to draw a line in the sand about how women are treated.
Appearing on The Today Show this morning, Fordham, who hosts a 2GB radio program, said he posted the image of Harris to his personal Instagram account before he even realised what the controversy was, purely because he thought it was an awesome shot.
However, playing devil's advocate in a segment with Today host Deborah Knight and Sarrah Le Marquand from RendezView, Fordham presented a photo of Richmond superstar Dustin Martin and asked for his colleagues' reaction as he read out some of the accompanying comments.
"This photo was uploaded to his (Martin's) Instagram account," Fordham said. "These are comments that are left under this photo by women, by female fans: 'It's a shame about the underwear', 'I just want him to be dad to my kids', 'Sexy b***h', 'This is hot', 'Marry me', 'Sexy boy', 'I can almost see up his shorts', 'I taught him that move last night', 'Get your lips around those thighs'.
"What's going on with these women?"
Le Marquand said it's impossible to compare the two cases as equal because males are more secure in their position as professional athletes, and are less likely to feel afraid for their safety.
"It's not a level playing field, pun intended, is it?" Le Marquand said. "Those comments made about a woman play into the misogyny of how we treat female athletes in this country.
"There's total inequity and when sexual comments are directed at a woman she has every reason to actually fear for her safety.
"For a man it's very different … he's not actually feeling violated or fearing for his safety.
"Most importantly on this issue he's not worried he's not going to be taken seriously as an athlete and I think that's the whole story here."
Knight agreed with Le Marquand, saying there's a difference between being lusted over and feeling unsafe.
"We all need to take stock of our comments but I agree with Sarrah — it's a different kettle of fish," Knight said.
"Tayla has said that she now feels unsafe in her workplace. People making those comments to her, people turning up to the game and they were aggressive, sexual comments.
"It's different than saying, 'Isn't he a good sort' whereas she felt threatened and quite violated. You've got to really look carefully at the language being used."
Fordham was in no way downplaying the seriousness of the disgusting slurs made about Harris, but was instead just pointing out another layer to the debate that's dominated headlines this week.
"I just found it interesting the overwhelming majority of comments from female fans were about, 'I want to take this bloke home, I want to have his children'," Fordham said.
Harris revealed her unease at being the subject of such horrible comments at her workplace, but has vowed to use the extra attention to call out trolls.
"If I can stand up here and say something about it then that's what I want to do today," Harris said at a press conference this week.
"Now I'm uncomfortable in my work space … I have decided this is a platform where I can help other people and make a difference.
"If I can come here, speak up and help just one person, that's what matters.
"They (the trolls) need to be called out. I genuinely considered they might show up at the footy and if they are thinking this way — what are they going to do when I'm on the sidelines meeting kids?
"All I can really hope for is obviously that it stops. Hopefully some people have someone call them out and it helps bring an end to it."