You Can Do Better Than Andrew Tate
This blog post was written in anticipation of our upcoming workshop for educators, “TikToxic Masculinity in The Classroom.” Click here to learn more and sign up!
Over the last two years, educators and parents have reported a disturbing rise of misogynistic behavior and rhetoric from their adolescent boys. While misogyny is certainly nothing new, this most recent surge can largely be traced back to the out-sized influence of one man: Andrew Tate.
Andrew Tate is a former kickboxer, current manosphere influencer, and aspiring recipient of a criminal conviction. He preaches about traditional masculinity and financial success to a congregation made up primarily of disenfranchised boys and young men.
To his devotees, Andrew Tate is a successful, quick-witted role model. An inspirational and aspirational figure. To me, he is a stone-cold goober. Just an absolute clown man.
Don’t get me wrong – he’s still very dangerous. He’s been accused of personally inflicting and influencing serious and devastating physical, emotional, and financial harm. But he’s also deeply, deeply goofy. The man can’t go three sentences without referencing The Matrix. He wrote self-insert fanfiction where he’s a big, brave, mystical martial arts student. He attempted a rap career. More recently, Tate compared his “persecution,” a.k.a., being investigated as a human trafficker and rapist, to the plight of Princess Diana.
He claims to be a wealthy, self-made mogul. Never mind that Tristan, his brother, business partner, and sidekick, described their first big business as a “total scam.” Or that the success of his current ventures are, let’s say, suspect at best. His “financial education” course, Hustlers University 4.0 (also known as The Real World), promises to help students “escape the matrix” for only $49.99 a month! Once in, you can learn things like copywriting from the people who felt comfortable writing and publishing ad copy that reads, “if there’s words involved, that is the job of a copy writer.”
Yet despite all of this – the criminal charges, the alleged and admitted fraud, and even the terrible, terrible rapping – Tate holds real sway over many of his follower’s wallets and minds. Some in his audience have seemingly chosen Tate’s messages of violence and misogyny over their real-life relationships with partners and family members. Boys have brought his rhetoric into schools, emboldened to sexually harass their classmates with increased frequency and severity.
The breadth of Tate’s reach can largely be explained by the admittedly great job he did at manipulating the social media algorithms of 2022. The depth and intensity of his influence, however, can primarily be explained by the unmet needs of his audience. He may sell himself as a stoic truth-teller, but his real business is in acknowledging and validating feelings like loneliness, disenfranchisement, and bitterness.
Boys and men are, as a group, struggling. Masculinity once came with the assumption of access to social and economic power, though mileage has varied heavily depending on factors like ethnicity, sexuality, and class. Over the last fifty years, this power has been systematically undermined by both social goods (progress toward gender equality) and evils (wage stagnation and wealth disparities).
It can be painfully easy to dismiss the existential crises of boys and men confronting this new world. After all, this isn’t a universal issue. There are plenty of empathetic, caring boys who celebrate and champion gender equality. And when held in comparison to other gendered issues like sexual harassment and assault, boys mourning the loss of unearned privilege frankly doesn’t seem that important.
However, trivializing a young person’s struggles is rarely the best course of action. I wouldn’t tell a toddler who scraped their knee not to cry because, “Some kids have cancer and that’s way worse!” While technically true, it’s wildly unhelpful. It doesn’t stop their knee from hurting. It doesn’t build trust between us. And it’s teaching them to dismiss the suffering of others rather than addressing it with compassion.
It also leaves them vulnerable to someone who is willing to acknowledge their pain. Someone like Andrew Tate, who can name his audience’s complex problems and tame them with impossibly simple solutions. Even if he’s calling them a “loser” or a “brokie,” Tate seems to be able to make the boys who follow him feel seen and respected. He treats them like adults, happy to take money and time from people of any age. He brings them in on his violent, misogynistic “jokes.” These boys are desperate for guidance and affirmation, and Tate is more than willing to sell that to them.
The good news is, educators and caregivers have a significant advantage over Andrew Tate. As we established, he’s just a silly guy. His material is literally just for-profit sexism, bootstrap philosophy, and Matrix quotes. Anybody can do that.
But teachers, administrators, and parents have the ability to work with their community and to care deeply about individual kids. They can meet boys where they’re at, building trust, validating experiences, and fostering empathy. If Andrew Tate can figure out how to connect with them, anyone can.