By Megan Warren-Lister
Women are “bitches” and “dumb hoes” who should “stay at home”. These are just aperitifs on the vast menu of delightful views that Andrew Tate has aired public videos. Aside from brazen misogyny, some of his lesser known views include: depression doesn’t exist, and those in poverty only have themselves to blame for their predicament. Sounds pretty fringe you might think. But you’d be wrong. Over the past three months, the cigar-smoking, Bugatti-driving influencer has been googled more than Bella Hadid, Rishi Sunak, and Leonardo DiCaprio, but teachers warn that he shouldn’t be treated like an anomaly; in fact his views are gaining serious traction among young boys.
Who is Andrew Tate, and why should we care?
Tate is just “the latest in a long line of those who peddle solutions to ment’s problems and male loneliness,” says Charlotte Carson, a teacher from Belfast. On TikTok alone videos associated with Tate have around 12 billion views, particularly worrying when you consider that a quarter of the platform’s audience is made up of 10-19 year olds. Indeed according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, this group takes gold in the screen-time olympics, with eight to ten year olds reportedly spending six hours a day on their phones, and 11-14 year-olds scrolling for nine hours. With this in mind, it was inevitable that Tate’s views would seep into UK schools; reflected by a ‘rapid rise’ in Tate-related referrals to the terrorism programme Prevent.
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Tate’s influence in schools unpacked
Currently charged with human-trafficking in Romania, Tate’s influence somehow remains unprecedented. When Harry Parker, a teacher from Birmingham, brought up the criminal proceedings to a student who’d mentioned him, it had no apparent impact on their unwavering belief in his character. For Parker, who has taught at a variety of schools in the area, this kind of influence is nothing short of “shocking,” with pupils as young as nine expressing admiration for the creator.
Equally, Parker is aware that many of his pupils come from economically deprived-backgrounds that might render Tate’s quality of life superficially aspirational, at least from a purely materialistic perspective. “Someone like him flaunting around bugattis and private jets brings out a kind of curiosity and fascination,” he explains. Charlotte Carson, a teacher in Belfast agrees that Tate’s aesthetics (both in terms of wealth, and his apparent fitness – he’s had a career in kickboxing) are a large part of the influencer’s appeal. But on one occasion when Carson brought up more controversial elements of his online persona, she recalls pupils becoming “defensive”.
Students told PSHE teacher Carson that Tate isn’t a misogynist, in fact even adding that, he thinks of women as jewels. It was up to Carson to point out that this is only a compliment if you think of women as property in the first place – as Tate notoriously does.
Elsewhere, the misogyny has manifested more brazenly. Maeve Park, a spokesperson for Groundswell Project, an organisation that challenges violent extremism by working with communities to promote tolerance, says teachers have reported instances of male pupils berating and intimidating female teachers, and it’s more widespread than you might think. According to research by the charity Hope not Hate, eight in ten boys aged between 16 and 17 have either read, listened to or watched Tate-related content.
Underlying Tate’s misogyny are ideas about “strict gender roles”, says Turner, who is the training principal at Groundswell. This echoes Parker’s classroom observations. “Personally I think they see Tate as someone who offers a kind of unbridled and hugely outspoken interpretation of masculinity,” he explains. More brazen and less self-censored than other influencers and footballers, Parker says Tate stands out.
Carson agrees that part of his appeal is his apparent ability to make young boys feel heard. She recalls one student saying: “He talks about us and our feelings, and no one else does.” She recognises, though, that this is a distortion. Tate, after all, has previously said that depression “doesn’t exist”, and as Turner points out, he advocates for men to “never show vulnerability” to women.
What impact is this all having?
Quite the opposite of being looked after, Groundswell has seen a direct negative impact on the wellbeing of young boys, as they try to fulfil this idea of physical and mental toughness that Tate projects and promotes. Carson explains: “We’re seeing that teenage boys are becoming more anxious about their physical appearance and are going to extreme lengths in order to get perfect bodies that are often unattainable or difficult to maintain”.
Deception then, is a key part of the influencer’s modus operandi. Whilst proclaiming to protect young boys, Tate’s influence is simultaneously damaging them. He may seem like a proponent of health, says Turner, who promotes physical fitness (most recently in the form of his 500 press-up prison gym routine), but really it’s a façade. This sense of duality runs much deeper, too. “It’s ironic that his mantra is to ‘escape the Matrix’ because what he has built is an internet cult, where everyone is just indoctrinated to follow his beliefs.” This, she says, “is a lot closer to the Matrix than anything else in wider society.”
Whilst classroom displays of Tate’s beliefs don’t always involve overt misogyny, it’s nevertheless a central part of his brand. Underlying his notorious post MeToo statement that women should “bear some responsibility for being raped,” is a deep commitment to the idea that women should be controlled. “I ain’t having my chicks talking to other dudes, liking other dudes. My chicks don’t go to the club without me, they are at home,” he announces in one tirade. This translates directly to Groundswell’s reports that young boys are displaying hardened attitudes to sex and relationships. According to Turner, “love and respect are becoming replaced with domination and control.”
Concealed within this influence is a kind of desensitisation, which may explain the defensiveness of Carson’s pupils. As Turner says, “the ‘Manosphere influencers’ (who promote a hyper-specific kind of masculinity and opposition to feminism) often sell their extreme messages in the form of jokes, and use other sly ways to inject misogyny into their videos which aren’t always picked up on properly by teenagers.” The result is a normalisation of misogynistic views that also means boys may perpetuate sexism unknowingly.
And what’s the role of schools in all this?
As a geography teacher, Parker does not have the time or resources to deeply engage with students on the subject of Tate, though he agrees that change is needed. At present, “it’s quite disturbing to see the effects [Tate] has on kids without any real effective school based strategy to tackle it.” This, he says, is exacerbated by the fact that PSHE syllabuses do not yet sufficiently deal with the influence of online creators. “There’s definitely a generational chasm between those creating policy that influences pupils lives, and the way those pupils actually exist and what they really need to be supported,” he explains. Carson echoes this, and is well aware that the TikTok world pupils occupy is a “parallel universe,” to her own. As a result, she feels there’s a need for broader solutions.
In particular, the Belfast-based teacher questions what kinds of message TikTok is sending by permitting Tate’s content on the platform (Tate was brought back onto Twitter less than a month after Elon Musk bought the platform last year) ), and advocates for improved regulation.
In the meantime, she’s of the view that “schools definitely have a job to do” and suggests a phone ban for starters. Despite this, she’s well aware that many pupils spend the entirety of their time at home online, and avoiding the online space isn’t the answer. As a result, she’s keen to equip pupils with tools to better manage how they react to the material they see. “The most important thing schools can do is teach critical literacy,” Carson says. “In this increasingly polarised climate, young people really do need to be encouraged to think critically,” she explains.
At the moment, organisations such as Groundswell are tackling the misogynistic ideologies espoused by Tate head-on. The charity recently started special workshops that are designed to help parents spot signs of extremism around gender. “We want parents to be engaged in this,” Turner explains, so they also have the tools to have these conversations. Tate’s popularity also demands recognition of the fact that whilst the focus on extreme misogyny is important, we also need to be able to call out the subtler damage he’s inflicting, from toxic gender norms, to falsehoods about mental health.
Teachers may not be able to tackle Tate alone, but, as Carson suggests, they can be a key part of the picture. After all, Tate isn’t the first, and won’t be the last of his kind. We’ve had Alex Jones and Jordan Peterson, and we will have another Andrew Tate. It’s important that when we do, teachers and pupils alike are equipped with the resources, time and tools necessary to deal with the consequences.
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