Andrew Tate, toxic masculinity and the radicalisation of Irish schoolboys
As a teacher in a co-ed secondary school on the west coast of Ireland, Catherine* is used to lively and spirited discussion among young pupils. One afternoon, a conversation among her second years gave her pause for thought.
Some of them were talking about how great this guy Andrew Tate was,” she recalls. “There was just one group in particular who seemed really fascinated with him and drawn to him. They’re only really getting soundbites from this guy, but they’re seeing the fact that he’s rich and successful. That he’s made something out of himself. That he’s an MMA fighter.”
Until a couple of weeks ago, after a high-profile spat with climate activist Greta Thunberg, most people might not have heard of Tate. The 36-year-old’s reach among the younger population, not notably Snapchat and TikTok users, is well-established.
Born in the US and raised in Luton in southeast England, Tate is also a former kickboxer and Big Brother contestant who has found his milieu online, where he provides ‘content’ for a mainly young male following. He has 3.4 million Instagram followers and 1.4 million on TikTok. Videos of his content, often misogynistic in nature, have been viewed 12 billion times, despite him being banned from several platforms.
His now-defunct Hustler’s University, in which he charged subscribers about €43 a month for content, had more than 127,000 ‘pupils’ at the height of its appeal. While the teachings purported to focus on self-improvement and ‘financial wellness’, Tate’s other ‘content’ has received attention. This include clips of him stating that women are a man’s property, and that rape victims must “bear responsibility” for their assaults.
He has also talked about hitting and choking women and stopping them from going out. In another post, he described how he would deal with a woman who accused him of cheating: “It’s bang out the machete, boom in her face and grip her by the neck. Shut up bitch.”
Though he denies any wrongdoing, Tate was arrested in Romania last month in connection with an investigation into alleged human trafficking, rape and forming an organised crime group. On Thursday, he was still in custody after appearing in court earlier in the week.
Of the young Irish boys who seem particularly taken with Tate, Catherine adds: “The older boys, say the ones doing their Leaving Cert, don’t buy into him at all, but it’s definitely some of the second and third years that do. They seem to believe everything he says. He is feeding into a cohort of kids that are perhaps not as popular with the girls or maybe not the most sporty.
“The kids that buy into him a little bit more might view women in a particular way, like it’s the woman’s fault if they don’t like you. It’s women that are the problem. There’s just a vulnerability there allowing those thoughts. And they’re being bombarded with this stuff over and over again. Secondary school kids are the best in the world, but some of them, I’d be so concerned for them.”
This rhetoric eventually finds its way into the young men’s behaviour at school, she says.
“They see me coming and the eye-rolling starts, and they’re quite dismissive and not very respectful during class.” And with their female contemporaries? “They just wouldn’t interact with them at all.”
Catherine also has a 13-year-old son who has just started secondary school. “Luckily, he seems to have just missed [Tate],” she says. “The minute I knew who this guy was, I went on to my son’s TikTok and put restrictions on it. Kids are so far ahead of us in terms of technology that as parents we really need to ask ourselves constantly, ‘do we know enough on this?’”
Tate is by no means the only online figure influencing young males. Other names that surface include alt-right blogger Roosh V (aka Daryush Valizadeh) and “pick-up artist” Julien Blanc.
The former, much like Tate, has been accused of a misogyny, ostensibly offering dating advice to men who are unsuccessful with women. Back in 2016, US activist Lindy West wrote of him: “What matters is that we recognise that Roosh and his repellent worldview don’t exist in a vacuum; they’re an extreme crystallisation of attitudes with real roots in our real lives.”
Originally from Switzerland, Blanc also offers advice to men on how to ‘pick up’ women using psychological tricks. A petition to deny him an Irish visa during his world tour in 2015 gained almost 15,000 signatures. The €1,600-a-ticket workshop never took place.
Alex Cooney, chief executive of the CyberSafeKids charity, says that several teachers have reported their concerns about Tate’s influence on schoolboys. “[Tate] tries to get away with a lot of things by suggesting it’s all a joke,” she says. “But children are not necessarily able to discern what is real or not real. If he’s talking about choking a woman or she’s his property or whatever, how is the child supposed to determine that this is a joke? Tate would say he’s just daring to say what many people, and what many young men, are thinking. He’s definitely tapping into something, but what I’m concerned about is how that influences the kids who can’t determine what’s said in jest.”
In Dublin, Natasha* is an English teacher in a co-ed school in north Co Dublin, and was perturbed when Tate’s name was mentioned when discussing ‘influential’ public figures in class.
“I think the older teenagers find him funny, but younger kids will easily believe that everything he says is true,” she says. “I find it fascinating, the relationship they make between themselves and this figure. They enjoy watching these cringey clips on YouTube of altercations between men and feminists and they find it funny.
“We speak about things like International Women’s Day or Nollaig na mBán in class and the boys in class will say that it’s completely unfair that women have these days to themselves, that IWD is completely crap. What they see is a real injustice,” she adds.
Debbie Ging, associate professor of digital media and gender at Dublin City University, has long had a research interest in toxic/fragile masculinity, the ‘manosphere’ and the radicalisation of boys. She has watched this growing sense of injustice unfurl.
“I’ve been studying this stuff since about 2016, and you can just see over the years that this has slowly become more mainstream,” she says.
Ging has observed the “a constellation of factors — economic, cultural, societal, technological — that has contributed to the injustice that young boys feel. Young men who lack purpose or fulfilment and find their own idea of gender identity in flux, are more likely to gravitate towards Tate’s hyper-masculine posturing, not to mention his talk about ‘providing’ financially for women.
“The anti-feminist backlash has very much been there since #MeToo,” Ging says. “There’s this idea that women have too much power and men are being vilified. There has been this thinking that feminism was great, it’s done its job and now we can all go back to being kind of stereotypically feminine and masculine.”
Part of Tate’s appeal comes from a backlash against progressive movements in western countries, she says.
“This is driven by the far right, the alt-right and by conservative governments,” Ging says. “Also, a lot of men feel they have been screwed over by neoliberal capitalism — they’re working in the gig economy and will never be able to buy their own home — but instead of blaming neoliberal economics, it’s easier to scapegoat feminism, immigrants or other ‘easy targets’. Women by contrast aren’t necessarily more comfortable with the precarity of the gig economy, but they’re just more used to it.”
The rise in the use of pornography among young men is also a factor. “What the men are seeing is a very particular and skewed vision of men and feminism, and that’s also playing a significant role in constructing their view of femininity,” Ging says.
“While it would be difficult to prove a direct causal relationship, I think what Tate and his ilk do is legitimise and embolden men who are already angry, sexist or raised in toxic environments. He provides emotionally damaged men with a collective space to channel their misguided and misdirected anger, hate and resentment. And if most of your perception of the world is coming through your computer screen, rather than from education or from the outside world, you’ll have a very filtered outlook.”
So what should educators be doing? Cooney says: “Broader conversations around things like consent and healthy relationships are important, and should be started even in primary school because, unfortunately, you can’t completely control what your kids are seeing online. You hear parents say they have strong parent controls in places, but you can’t control what’s going on in someone else’s house, and that’s often where kids have come across this stuff.
“Best case scenario, they’ll come to you and say, ‘I’ve seen something I’m really confused by’. Can you help me out?’”
Parents, too, should realise that their children can and will encounter uncomfortable and inappropriate content online, despite their parents’ best intentions.
“As soon as they even get a phone, make a rule saying you will check it when you want, you’ll check their friends, and check their apps. Say, ‘I’ll do so in a transparent way, I’m not trying to catch you out’. You’d be surprised at the number of parents who see that as an invasion of privacy,” Cooney says.
“Don’t get complacent and assume that just because you’ve thrown a few features on to your child’s phone, that you’re out of the woods.
“We also need to ensure that our education system is equipping young people for real life, and that includes their lives online, which at the end of the day is very extensive.”
* Not her real name
For more information on CyberSafeKids, see cybersafekids.ie
The older Tate fan: ‘He teaches his followers to be strong’
In conversation with Édaein O’Connell
Matt* (24) from Cork, admits he didn’t know much about Andrew Tate until the influencer was banned from YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in August. Intrigued, he went in search of the reason for his cancellation. “The media say it is because of misogyny, yet in my search for evidence regarding these accusations, I found nothing of the sort,” he says.
“Anyone who actually spent any time listening to him will agree with me; there is nothing misogynistic about him. The majority of his content has absolutely nothing to do with women anyway. Andrew Tate critics know nothing about him and have only shortened quotes and lines without any context or reasons for their criticism.”
For Matt, the pull of Tate comes from his financial advice and his views on masculinity. “The idea of making enough money for your parents to retire early is a nice one,” he says. “Western society is quite anti-men, so it doesn’t surprise me that younger men are sick and tired of being demonised for simply wanting to move up in the world.”
In the past, Tate has said women can’t drive and are a man’s property. Matt says he has been misquoted. “That is misrepresenting what he’s actually said,” he argues. “People calling him ‘misogynistic’ is a fabrication of what he talks about. He said that if he and his female partner were attacked by a group of 10 men, he would lay down his life so his partner could escape. He also said women are the most precious things in the world because they create life and should be protected because of that. Yet his critics see that as him saying women ‘need’ protection or women are ‘things’, rather than appreciating the sentiment and the message itself.”
Instead of intensifying the battle of the sexes, Tate is simply acknowledging that it exists, Matt says. “He’s pointing out that it’s there, particularly among the most militant of feminists. And he has expressed his support for traditional gender roles. Those aren’t social constructs, they’re the consequence of millions of years of evolution and we know they work. Yes, there are women such as Marie Curie who were brilliant scientists and changed the course of humanity through science more than through home duties, and I’m sure there are plenty more. I’m equally sure there are households where the men stay at home and it works just fine, but they are outliers; they are exceptions and not the rule.”
He argues Tate teaches his male followers to “do their duty as men to be providers and protectors”. “He encourages young males to pursue industrial jobs because they are critical to the function of society. The reason he’s in the media consciousness is that he’s fighting for men in a world where men are supposed to be weak.”
While he is aware of Tate’s recent arrest, he says: “I’m confident that if there are skeletons in his closet, they will be found and he will be duly processed and punished. Until there’s real evidence though, I remain sceptical of the accusations.”
*Not his real name
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/andrew-tate-toxic-masculinity-and-the-radicalisation-of-irish-schoolboys-42282161.html Andrew Tate, toxic masculinity and the radicalisation of Irish schoolboys