The rise of violent misogynist Andrew Tate shows if feminists and progressives can’t find a way to speak thoughtfully to young men, the right will. And women will suffer accordingly.
Andrew Tate was a well-known and controversial figure in the U.K. long before his arrest in Romania on Dec. 29 on charges of human trafficking and rape. For years, rumors circulated about his alleged physical and sexual abuse of women, and he made flagrantly misogynous statements on a regular basis. Alas, none of this was enough to slow his ascent. After all, expressions of woman-hating have a lengthy and ugly history in the online manosphere.
But Tate’s pronouncements raised special concern because he was a breakout star, whose charisma and marketing savvy had begun to attract growing numbers of young male fans.
His videos garnered millions of views—sometimes tens of millions. This was likely exacerbated by the pandemic, which created a “breeding ground for sexism,” according to one British newspaper. Boys had extra time to explore the internet when schools were closed during lockdown and fewer opportunities to discuss what was normal and acceptable with their teachers and peers.
Educators and journalists across the English-speaking world sounded the alarm about the effect that Tate’s brazenly misogynous persona and pronouncements were having on naïve and impressionable boys.
Articles circulated with headlines like “Nine Reasons Parents Should Be Concerned by Andrew Tate and His Rise to Internet Fame”; “Andrew Tate Fueling Misogyny in U.K. Schools, Teachers Warn”; “Teachers and Girls Call Out Andrew Tate Influence as Rape Threat Revealed”; “Teachers Warn That Misogynist Andrew Tate Has ‘Radicalized’ School-Age Boys.”
The pandemic created a ‘breeding ground for sexism’: Boys had extra time to explore the internet when schools were closed, and fewer opportunities to discuss what was acceptable with their teachers and peers.Jackson Katz
As The Los Angeles Times culture critic Mary McNamara put it, “If it sounds insane that a Big Brother reject turned webcam pimp turned schemer would be anything more than a cautionary tale, there is one thing Tate is actually good at: grooming young men to follow in his footsteps with a hypnotic brew of alpha-male fantasy and adolescent ‘stop telling me what to do, Mom’ grievance.”
As the trafficking case against Tate proceeds, further revelations of his licit—and possibly illicit—misogyny will no doubt surface. Regardless of the outcome, it is important to understand how and why all of this happened.
It’s time to reckon with an uncomfortable truth: While indefensible, the social media star’s virulent misogyny caught on with legions of male fans, young and old. Indeed, it was a key part of his appeal, even if some of the outrageous things he said were more performance art than sincerely held beliefs. Nonetheless, as the Romanian authorities pursue a criminal case against Tate, it’s worth pausing to explore elements of both the cultural and political context for his rise and (possible) fall.
What follows are a sampling of “teachable moment” topics raised by the Tate saga that merit further inquiry and discussion—from parents and educators, to journalists and thought leaders, to advocates against sexual and domestic violence.
1. Tate’s normalization of misogyny harms girls and young women.
When an entrepreneur like Andrew Tate monetizes misogyny to become rich and famous, it tells us less about him and more about the lives and psyches of his customers.
Tate understands that millions of young men are confused, frustrated and lonely. But rather than encourage them to develop the interpersonal and relational skills that would improve their lives—which includes their sex lives—he teaches them to double down on tired cliches, like the need to project a cartoonish version of “manly” strength.
This faux strength includes, of course, one of the central lessons taught in the ‘pickup artist’ sector of the misogynous manosphere: The way to “get girls” is to mock and degrade them, and generally treat them poorly.
Tate and his ilk advise young men to treat women badly, at a time when societies around the world are already struggling with high levels of sexual violence and relationship abuse. Most of this abuse is perpetrated by average guys, not pathological monsters. They are products of a socialization process that instructs them about how men are supposed to think and act, in and out of relationships.
A chapter in my book The Macho Paradox, “It Takes a Village to Rape a Woman,” argues that serious efforts to reduce sexual violence must look at cultural forces that shape men’s sexual psyches and inform their personal narratives—from the normalization of “choking” (aka strangling) in mainstream porn, to the unapologetically anti-woman pronouncements of charismatic gurus like Andrew Tate.
The negative consequences for young heterosexual women of Tate’s advice to young men are obvious. These women often find themselves partnered with men who believe—consciously or not—that men’s emotional and sexual needs come first, and that women’s most important role is to serve men.
In an era when growing numbers of women are demanding equal treatment and respect for their basic human rights, this is a recipe for relational strife—and much worse.
2. The ideal of “manhood” Tate promotes harms boys and young men.
Tate’s message harms boys because:
- It teaches boys that selfish materialism without regard for its human consequences is a formula for success.
- It sets boys up for a lifetime of failure in intimate relationships and friendships with girls and women, for which they often blame the women, fueling a vicious cycle.
- It misleads boys into thinking that certain kinds of misogynous behavior—such as harassment or coercive control—are “normal,” when they are in fact criminal.
As a large and growing body of research demonstrates, boys from all ethnic/racial backgrounds face difficult developmental challenges as they attempt to reconcile the reality of their emotional and relational vulnerability with persistent demands on them to “man up” in order to make it in a cruel world.
Contrary to the claims of conservative anti-feminists that helping boys develop tools of emotional intelligence “wussifies” them and thus renders them soft and ineffectual, it is arguably necessary to acquire these tools in order to be strong and successful in both relationships and work—especially in leadership roles.
Tate’s message harms young men because it deflects attention away from the conservative “free market” economic policies that have hurt their life chances, and misidentifies women—especially feminists—as one of the main sources of their troubles.
In a Medium piece about the exploitative nature of Andrew Tate’s business model, which he calls part of the “Toxic Masculinity Industrial Complex,” the British economist Umair Haque argued young men face downward mobility, which makes having a career, finding a mate and starting a family seem difficult, if not impossible. This can make them feel “like their lives are going nowhere.”
Manfluencers like Andrew Tate, Haque said, prey on young men who’ve lost faith and confidence—in institutions, relationship, even themselves—and offer them a certain seduction. “It’s ironic because here are young men, looking for women, but they’re getting seduced by … other men … who are con artists.”
Boys from all backgrounds face challenges as they attempt to reconcile the reality of their emotional and relational vulnerability with persistent demands on them to ‘man up’ in order to make it in a cruel world.Jackson Katz
3. For many uninformed young men, feminism is a hostile philosophy and feminists are caricatured villains.
In numerous interviews, Andrew Tate castigates feminists for denying “human nature,” or misrepresenting his views and wrongly attacking him.
Some commentators have noted that Tate’s popularity with young men is driven by his “anti-wokeness,” which includes anti-feminism. An essential feature of his brand is his willingness to say things that are “politically incorrect”—a quality he shares with several male comedians and thought leaders, such as Donald Trump and the conservative self-help guru Jordan Peterson, both of whom have millions of admirers and are disproportionately popular with men.
Sometimes opposition to “political correctness” is merely a cover for racist, sexist, homophobic or anti-trans bigotry. But Tate and others who have gained riches, fame and enormous cultural influence as self-styled champions of beleaguered men are responding to something genuine. The rallying cry repeated endlessly in right-wing media—that feminists and the left hate men, especially white men—is not true.
But it is fair to say that in contemporary Western society, men—especially those who consider themselves “regular guys”—often do feel stymied and judged. And white men are often “called out” for their unearned privilege. They are criticized for the disproportionate power some of them wield to block the advancement of other groups.
This gets complicated, however, because economic inequality has increased over the past couple of generations, and the real wages of working people have stagnated. As a result, many working and lower middle-class white men have experienced a diminished standard of living, and don’t feel powerful at all. For some, this leads to a sense of “aggrieved entitlement”—a resentment that someone has taken away what they believe is rightfully theirs. Feminists are an easy scapegoat.
And yet one of the problems with the anti-feminism of those who defend Andrew Tate—who, it should be noted, is now facing serious charges of sexual exploitation and assault—is that their perception of feminism is more a caricature than a serious critique.
There is one thing Tate is actually good at: grooming young men to follow in his footsteps with a hypnotic brew of alpha-male fantasy and adolescent ‘stop telling me what to do, Mom’ grievance.Mary McNamara
Feminism has benefitted boys and men in countless ways. Feminists have long been the staunchest defenders and advocates for children—including boys—who are the traumatized witnesses or victims of domestic violence. Feminists were also way ahead of the curve in their support and advocacy for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, a category that includes untold numbers of boys and men.
Over the past generation, feminist women and pro-feminist men have generated some of the most groundbreaking and beneficial research about the complex developmental and health-related challenges faced by boys and young men, from all ethnic and racial backgrounds.
4. There is a strong connection between misogyny and right-wing politics.
Mainstream social commentators have been slow to recognize and discuss something feminist social and political theorists have known for years: Backlash against the successes of feminist and LGBTQ movements is one of the driving forces behind the rise of the far right in the contemporary U.S. and Europe.
Conservative cultural theorists regularly decry the “war on masculinity,” and the policy agendas of right-wing political parties—including the Republican Party—often call explicitly for the rollback of women’s reproductive freedom and LGBTQ rights.
Andrew Tate is a supporter of Donald Trump and other right-wing populist figures in the U.K. Until recently he had many populist conservative fans in right-wing media, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Even though Tate’s sexual escapades might not endear him to traditionalists in the conservative movement, he plays a valuable role for the right in the way he sells conservativism—which in many ways is about the defense of hierarchy—as somehow rebellious.
As Mary McNamara wrote, “When Tate is not flexing his cash, cars, abs and cigars or talking about his fitness routine or all the millionaires he texts, he is endlessly whining about how tough men have it, about how people don’t understand that the world—the Matrix—is enslaving them.”
She continued, “His rage—which is just whining with the volume turned up—targets young men who feel confused, angry or undervalued. Young men easily persuaded to feel that a diverse, equitable and tolerant society will strip them of status, that their behavior is being censured not because it is abusive or violent but because it is male.”
Tate’s popularity with young men could play a role in recruiting them into extremist right-wing politics. They might initially be attracted to Tate’s flashy cars and sexy women, but he also says regularly that he and his followers represent threats to the “establishment,” which he calls “the Matrix.”
This sort of language aligns neatly with right-wing populist rhetoric about “shadowy elites” and globalist conspiracies. This is all familiar terrain to scholars of far-right extremism, who warn that an “alt-right pipeline” draws in lonely and alienated young men through anti-feminist or anti “social justice warrior” appeals, and then Big Tech algorithms expose them to increasingly extremist and white nationalist video content and networks.
A key lesson feminists, liberals and progressives must learn from the rise of Andrew Tate is that if they can’t find the time and language to speak thoughtfully and compassionately to both the deficits and desires in young men’s lives, the right will do so. And women will suffer accordingly—along with everyone else.