This fall, educators will face yet another threat in their classrooms: the seemingly ubiquitous influence of Andrew Tate, an internet personality whose misogynistic, and oftentimes violent, messages are worming their way into young boys’ minds at an alarming rate.
By now, you may have heard of Tate. The 35-year-old British-American schemer and self-described misogynist (you read that right) is a former professional boxer who appeared on the 2016 season of Big Brother, before he was kicked off after a video surfaced of him hitting a woman with a belt. (He and the woman later said the interaction was consensual, not abusive.) Over the last six years, he’s amassed 11.6 billion TikTok views, 4.7 million Instagram followers, and multiple appearances on vlogs and podcasts, giving him horrific reach for his content.
His greatest hits include the following: saying women shouldn’t drive, comparing women to dogs, viewing his girlfriends as monetary assets, and claiming women should “bear responsibility” for being raped. In early August, the Guardian reported that Tate is being investigated on human trafficking (which he has denied) and rape allegations in Romania, where he lives in a mansion with his brother. In April, the home was raided by police in search of an American woman allegedly held against her will. Income wise? Tate ran Hustler’s University 2.0 (upgraded to Hustler’s University 3.0 on Monday), a “modern wealth creation” course that promises its more than 100,000 users, many of whom are young men, hacks on how to make $10,000 a month, per the Guardian...all for the low price of $49.99 a month.
Nittya Rizza, a 12th grade teacher at a private school in Toronto, believes a few factors coalesced to give Tate his unshakeable power over some young male minds. For her Canadian students, in addition to living across the border from the Trump presidency and witnessing “his remarks towards women,” Rizza explained that being “bored out of their minds stuck at home” in the social isolation of the pandemic helped breed unmatched devotion to social media. In Rizza’s case, her now-12th graders last attended in-person school in the ninth grade, which caused a huge disruption in both their education and their interactions with their peers.
“They haven’t been given not only the literacy skills, but the critical literacy [skills they need],” Rizza told Jezebel. “So to be able to look at a text and critically say, ‘What is the bias here? What is the intention here? Who is the audience here?’ Then a controversialist like Andrew Tate emerges? Because they haven’t been socialized, they haven’t been around girls, they’re like, ‘Yes, this is exactly how I win a woman’s affection.’ I don’t think they know any better.”
Other teachers’ back-to-school excitement has likewise been tainted by male students spewing incredibly sexist hate during class, which they attribute to Tate’s influence. One teacher posted on TikTok about her male sixth grader fat-shaming a female classmate and telling her “she’s like every other girl in the world and that she uses men to get money, and at least he’s a hard-working man and that he works for his money.” Another took to the Reddit thread r/Teachers to share how her male students were “literally refusing to do assignments if it’s sourced from a woman,” because “‘women should only be housewives.’” In New Zealand, a teacher reported that her 13- to 15-year-olds said “women who are sexually assaulted are ‘asking for it’ due to ‘what they wear’” and that “‘if a woman has had abortions already she loses the right use the statement ‘her body her choice.’”
Part of Tate’s appeal is how well he’s mastered the art of “virtual manhood acts” (VMAs), a term sociologists Dr. Mairead Moloney and Dr. Tony Love of the University of Kentucky coined in 2018 after #TheFappening to describe how masculinity is embodied on the internet. VMAs consists of four main tenets: (1) presenting masculinity, (2) enforcing hegemonic gender norms, (3) oppressing women, and (4) policing other men to adhere to a very strict, traditional definition of masculinity. Tate embodies all of this quite flawlessly, down to the dark shades he wears on camera, which “prevent the showing of any emotion that is not masculine,” Moloney pointed out.
Given our willingness to (rightly) criticize white cisgender heterosexual masculinity, it makes total sense that young boys, who are undergoing an intense developmental period where hormones and external pressure can easily destabilize their sense of self, would gravitate towards Tate to regain a sort of societal control—a restoration of the traditional gender hierarchy, if you will. “Virtual manhood acts always advantage men at the expense of women,” Moloney told Jezebel. “It’s a form of power currency. And if you can align yourself with this dominant ideology, and if you can enact this dominant ideology, then by definition, right off the bat, you’re more powerful than women.” We’d be remiss not to take seriously the appeal of easy money for boys and young men, too, given how inextricably linked capitalism and the patriarchy are. Hustler University 2.0's homepage literally touted: “No job, but still money arriving into your bank account - YES or NO?” For many, the obvious answer is yes.
In part, Rizza believes that what young men are really looking for is social connection with their peers. “I think Andrew Tate has radicalized a large group of lonely young men and told them, ‘Your loneliness is not your fault. It’s women’s fault. It’s not your behavior that’s the problem, it’s women’s behavior. It’s not your values that are the problem, it’s these new age, liberal, societal values, and that’s why you can’t get girls, and the only way to get girls is to oppress them. The only way to make money is to go back to these old traditional ways of thinking,’” she said. “I think it’s a cop out, and a lot of young men fall for it.”
While Tate’s reign may have started on the internet, it’s undeniable that his influence has trickled into the very real classrooms where teachers are working hard to teach their students about compassion and inclusivity. The Instagram account @the.unteachables even created a guide for teachers on what to do when Tate is brought up in the classroom: “Open up a conversation so you can guide in a way that informs and educates,” it advises. The sad reality is, Tate’s influence won’t stop there. “These young people, if they manage to get into university, we’re going to start seeing them in post secondary, we’re going to start seeing them in the workplace,” Rizza said. ‘It’s going to be a boys club all over again.”
Tate’s rise to infamy has many parents, educators, and netizens concerned about adolescents’ media consumption. “We need to be real about the dangers that there are in terms of the development of the self, the definition of the self, the way that you define others and their worth, and the effects that it can have on your self-esteem,” Love told Jezebel. But change must also go far beyond the screen. Moloney additionally called for more expansive, consent-based sex education and policy change. “What [Tate] is doing is reifying this idea that women’s bodies are for male consumption, and for male domination, and that they don’t own their bodies and their autonomies in the same way that men do.”
As of August 20, Tate is banned from TikTok and all Meta platforms, including Instagram and Facebook. His 2017 Twitter suspension still holds. The influencer also deleted his Twitch, and his YouTube channel was disabled Monday, both of them platforms where he was able to spew much of his abhorrent rhetoric to millions of viewers at a time. It will be more difficult for young boys to follow the algorithm to his diatribes (though copycat and fan accounts are trying to pick up the slack). And yet, we should not avoid this subject. “It would be doing a disservice to say that we shouldn’t talk about this. I think that we need to give parents [and] educators material that they can hold on to,” Rizza said. “There are social, emotional ramifications. There are educational ramifications.”
We hear educators loud and clear: No media ban will be enough to stop the brand of misogyny Tate let loose on a new generation.
This piece initially stated that Nittya Rizza teaches at an all-boys school. In fact, her school is co-ed. It has been updated to reflect that information.