sports

The online reaction to this photo proves there's still a long road ahead.

Visibility.

For those who consistently kept asking why a photo of Erin Phillips and her wife kissing was so heavily circulated following her AFL Women’s best-and-fairest win, there’s your answer. It’s all about visibility.

The fact that Phillips’ kiss has garnered as much – if not more – attention than her historic win silently speaks volumes for how many people aren’t used to the sight of two women kissing. It proves no matter how progressive we may be or how large a majority is pushing for marriage equality, it’s not a sight championed on enough news feeds or on many TV screens.

On Tuesday night, when the photo of Phillips and her wife appeared online, it was an ordinary show of affection, being celebrated for giving visibility in a media landscape that struggles to get a hand on diversity.

But by Wednesday night a seedy underbelly started to emerge.

There were comments littered on social media. The ones that centred on how the kiss was there to be ogled by men. The ones that took the most beautifully ordinary symbol of equal love and made it overtly sexual.

Added to this was this morning’s observation from Mark Robinson in his column for Herald Sun about the kiss being considered “sensual”.

To Robinson’s credit, the piece started well, and its intentions were admirable. A major newspaper running a column from a sports writer that had the headline “Footy’s grown up. Time for politicians to do the same,” is no small feat. If the argument for gay marriage can infiltrate a world of blokey banter and beer-raising masculinity, the conversation is reaching those who oppose it. And it’s great that he is apart of that.

LISTEN: Erin Phillips is a kick-arse woman. This is why.

“It was the kiss that travelled around Australia,” he wrote. “It encapsulated happiness, love, appreciation, understanding and, let’s be honest, it was probably a touch sensual for a number of men.”

What’s interesting about this is that although we support marriage equality – and by Robinson’s own admission he absolutely does –  we still talk about it in male-centric terms.

Even when we praise equality and same-sex love, we tend to fetishise it in a way that says, ‘this is sexual, and it is for men’.

Of course Robinson – who labelled Australia’s current stance on same-sex marriage as “an embarrassment” – considers the relationship between Erin Phillips and her wife Tracy far beyond those limits, but a quick glance online proves many men do not…

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So why give the comments voice? Why bother indulging the creeps? Why not ignore them?

It’s simple, really. These weren’t cherry-picked nor were they a small sprinkling. These comments were everywhere. These were comments from only two threads of conversation.

In all of this coverage you’ll hear a lot of: Why can’t we let it go? If we truly want to normalise the concept of two women kissing, we should just stop talking about it.

Which is true – to a point. One day we won’t be talking about it. One day we won’t have to. One day it will be totally normalised and love will be love will be love. But today isn’t that day.

aflw w awards 2017
Erin Phillips and wife Tracey. Source: Getty.

Because if today was the day we stopped talking about it, we wouldn't have as many comments like the ones above circulating online in a pit of terrible ignorance. If today was that day, it wouldn't feel like there are gross, fetish-like undertones to commentary on an ordinarily beautiful photo.

Oh! And if today was that day, perhaps every single person in our country would be allowed to marry the person they love, too.

The photo of Erin Phillips kissing her wife is beautiful, and not because it is about sex, but because it is about love.

Do you think the undertones to this conversation have missed the mark?

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