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Andrew Tate’s violent, misogynistic teachings are seeping into classrooms

How to counter the “tidal wave of misogyny” spurred by anti-feminist influencers.

Last week, Education Week became the latest publication to warn readers of an uptick in violent misogyny being expressed by teenage boys. Over the past several months, teachers in the U.K., Canada, U.S. and elsewhere have reported impacts like a “huge increase in rape jokes” among boys, as well as comments that casually praise men as better than women and refusals to do assignments handed out by a woman because “women should only be housewives.” One teacher reported hearing a student in the playground introduce his girlfriend to a group, and “as soon as she was out of earshot he was asked by several friends if they could ‘have a go’ with her.

Some teachers and education experts blame this disturbing increase in part on creators like self-described misogynist and online influencer Andrew Tate, who was arrested in December in Romania on charges of organized crime, human trafficking and rape. One of Google’s most searched-for people of 2022, Tate amassed millions of followers on social media — mostly teenage boys and young men — before being banned from Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and Instagram. Among other repugnant statements on social media, Tate has compared women to property, argued that women bear some of the responsibility when they are raped, and bragged about seeking sexual conquests with 18-year-old women because younger women are easier to “make an imprint” on.

Tens of thousands of boys and men — some claiming to be as young as 13 — paid $49.95/month for access to Tate's content.

Tate covers this hate with an affable, joke-filled delivery style, offered in monthly subscription content promising self-help, money-making and self-improvement tips. Tens of thousands of boys and men — some claiming to be as young as 13 — paid $49.95/month for access to Tate's content. Performative, chest-thumping masculinity is part of the package: Tate rejects therapy and urges young men to get off the couch and go to the gym, while flaunting wealth, flashy cars, yachts and mansions as symbols of status and success. (The performative aspect has even become a shield for Tate: In a statement to NBC News last year denying allegations of misogyny, he called himself a “success coach” who plays an “online character.”) 

Tate doesn’t only appeal to teenage boys; he has amassed a following among some conservative Muslim men, especially following his conversion to Islam last year. Tate’s statements validate these followers’ patriarchal belief systems, in which men remain heads of households and women are subservient actors who support them. As writer Rasha al Aqeedi explains for New Lines Magazine, Tate’s embrace of Islam is based on “the very Islamophobic stereotypes that many Muslims have fought against” and which are now “attracting the toxic masculinity types to Islam.” After he converted, Tate claimed he was collecting bricks so he could stone his partner if she cheated on him — an allusion to the Shariah punishment for adultery that is not practiced in the vast majority of Muslim-majority states.

Tate is far from being the only driver of rising misogyny. Online extremism expert Milo Comerford points out that there are “thousands of Andrew Tates out there” offering up anti-feminist content. There are plenty of other “gurus” online, teaching seduction and manipulation techniques, or railing against women’s progress as having come at the expense of men and as a threat to the God-given natural order of things.

As these toxic online subcultures have grown over the years, they have spread into the mainstream. In 2019, an all-male, mock student government in Kansas proposed repealing the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, leading to an apology from the sponsoring organization. Women’s rights campaigner Laura Bates reports that over the past few years, her visits to schools now have a “new normal”: boys in the audience trying to challenge her with false statistics about rape. A 2020 U.K. survey found that half of young men believe feminism has gone too far.

How can we counter this “tidal wave of misogyny,” in the words of one elementary school teacher? First, shaming, judging or embarrassing boys can drive them further online, where their shame is easily converted to anger directed toward “triggered snowflakes” who haven’t yet woken up to the reality of the world-view they’ve adopted. Countering with facts also doesn’t work, because those facts are sometimes seen as part of a supposedly broader shadowy conspiracy against men. Worst of all are approaches teens deem “cringey,” which can fuel further backlash and ridicule. One school administrator in the U.K. warned that there are “lots of videos on TikTok” of kids “making fun of” school assemblies about Andrew Tate. Teachers who “talk down to students,” take patronizing positions as adults who know better, or refuse to acknowledge there is anything good about an online influencer can lead students to shut down.

Shaming, judging or embarrassing boys can drive them further online, where their shame is easily converted to anger

Experts say the best approach combines curiosity, nonjudgement, and messages from mentors who matter to youth. Discussions should include an acknowledgement that online communities have benefits as well as harms, opening the door to discussions about young people’s values and whether online influencers reflect them or not. Youth mentors beyond teachers are especially important. For example, athletic coaches can integrate discussions about healthy masculinity, treating women with respect and rejecting violence into coaching, as programs like Coaching Boys to Men have shown. Ongoing digital literacy training is also key, such as approaches that work to teach youth about how bad actors may seek to manipulate or groom them for their own profit.

In the face of rising online misogyny, all young people — especially teenage boys — need early, consistent and positive engagement with men who are role models for respectful treatment of women. The best offense, in other words, is a good defense that helps youth recognize and reject harmful and hateful online content whenever they encounter it. It’s far easier to prevent teens from going down the rabbit hole than it is to pull them back out. But to do so effectively, teachers need all the help they can get.