[CW: mentions of rape, human trafficking, hate speech, and misogyny]
Concepts of masculinity and femininity have shaped and shifted as our society has moved towards a more accepting notion of varying gender identities and roles. The combination of feminist movements, support for LGBTQIA+ communities, and the destigmatization of mental health has brought toxic masculinity to the forefront of conversations and has clearly exposed it as unacceptable behavior. But, no progress is impervious to opposition, and it's taken the form of blatant misogyny.
Enter: Andrew Tate (better known by his fanbase as Top G or Cobra). Where misogynistic communities had remained in the depths of cesspools like 4chan and other dark forums, Andrew Tate and fellow male lifestyle influencers have slowly brought hateful and disrespectful content towards women to the forefront of mainstream algorithms. It’s not that misogyny ever went away. You simply have to be a woman walking down the street or go on voice comms in a video game to know that. But, it was something that Millennials and Gen Zs were particularly passionate about mitigating and destroying. It was a cancellable offense in the mainstream to say hateful, discriminatory, and derogatory things about women. The majority of us had pretty much agreed that we were over that stage of society. Now, we’re seeing a major upsurge in misogynistic behaviors and sentiments, particularly amongst, and curated towards, young Gen Z and older Gen Alpha boys.
How We Got Here: The Mythopoetic Men's Movement:
“Behind the Bastards” podcast host, Robert Evans, gives a compelling four-part series account of Andrew Tate and his rise to becoming the idol of misogynistic men everywhere. Evans starts the series by tracing the origins of modern misogyny back to Robert Bly in the 1990s. Bly was a poet, essayist, activist, and leader of what is called the “mythopoetic men's movement”. He spent 62 weeks at the top of the New York Times Best Seller list for his most famous text: Iron John: A Book About Men. This book would essentially become the core text for the mythopoetic men’s movement which is a movement defined as: “a body of self-help activities and therapeutic workshops and retreats for men undertaken by various organizations and authors in the United States from the early 1980s through the 1990s.” (Wikipedia).
Essentially, what this movement specializes in, is supporting men who feel emasculated by the progress of society to get in touch with their masculinity, fraternize with like-minded men, and return to “natural values” through the retelling of stories and folklore that supports traditional notions of masculinity. The movement is shrouded in a sense of spirituality and a connection with ancestral beliefs that regard gender as a biological reality, but also maintained a strong connection to psychology and self-growth, being largely influenced by Jungian psychology. This movement is academic in nature, garnering the attention and dedication of men in the upper echelons of society’s most “cultured” specimens.
Originally, the movement seems to have been born out of a desire for some men to distinguish themselves from “emotionally immature, toxic masculinity” that other men were exhibiting in the 70s and 80s. Bly’s book, Iron John, tells the story of manhood through stories of trials and tribulations, and then provides a framework for men to healthily work through them. The goal is to attain a sort of self-actualization, become the perfect man, and re-establish the natural order of patriarchal society that, in the point of view of followers of the mythopoetic men’s movement, had been diluted by modern society.
Andrew Tate & Co.:
The mythopoetic men's movement and the men who perpetrated the ideology like Robert Bly, can be considered the basis of modern misogyny that facilitated the rise of men like Andrew Tate. Both traditional and modern misogyny are founded on the basis that women are inferior to men and should be treated as such. The difference is that traditional misogyny maintains the subjugation of women (i.e. a woman’s job is to stay home, have kids, clean, and serve the man, to not be a sexual being, etc.), while modern misogyny is a response to the feminist movement that blames women for any shortcoming that a man may have (a man’s sex life, the economy, the home life, etc.). Both traditional and modern misogyny still occur, and they often inform each other. But for the purpose of this essay, we’ll be focusing on modern misogyny.
Now, a little background on the infamous Andrew Tate. Emory Andrew Tate was born in 1986 and he’s from Chicago, Illinois. Tate’s father worked for the US Air Force in Britain, where he met Andrew’s mother. The pair moved back to America together to raise their sons, Andrew and Tristan. Tate’s parents later divorced, and Andrew and Tristan moved to Luton, England with their mother. In his later years, Tate was a kickboxing world champion four times. But, his claim to fame really began online.
Tate’s prominent online presence seems to have appeared out of nowhere. Originally posting YouTube videos of his lavish lifestyle, workout videos, and advice for how to talk to girls, Tate’s online portfolio grew into content that includes videos with quotes like: “18 and 19 year olds are more attractive because they’ve been through less dick”, rape victims should “bear responsibility” for their attacks, and women are the property of men. Tate’s online presence grew with his YouTube channel, “TateSpeech”, where many of his most controversial opinions were aired. He also began an online community called Hustler’s University that “teaches” men how to get rich, get women, and get ripped, drawing the attention and dollars of many boys and men from the US and UK. From there, Tate exploded on TikTok, garnering more than 11.6 million views on his content. Allegedly, Tate had been asking his followers to spread his content by sharing his most controversial opinions on multiple accounts, maximizing views and visibility, which can explain his surge to internet stardom.
It was revealed that Tate made a large sum of his money by running a “cam girl” business. Where essentially, Tate would find women and girls, groom them to fall in love with him, and then sit them in front of a camera to perform. Tate would profit off of their work and claims that at one point he had 75 women working for him, some of them living with him. If this sounds off to you, that’s because it’s not a cam girl business, it’s human trafficking.
The Target Audience:
Tate’s lifestyle, ideologies, and charisma caught the attention of very particular subsets of men that often have crossover: incels, the manosphere, and the alt-right. Incels (internet-slang for “involuntarily celibate”), are usually men who have not had sex or relationships with women and blame women for why they are still virgins. These men are the purveyors of things like “incel theory” (which is a game theory ideology that women will only choose a male partner based on looks, predetermining the existence of incels) and men being inherently alpha or beta males. The manosphere is a collection of organizations like Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW), pick-up artists (PUAs), and more general men’s rights activists. The manosphere is an umbrella term that encompasses the wide variety of websites, forums, and groups that tout antifeminism, encourage misogyny, and believe that women are out to destroy masculinity. Lastly, the alt-right, which (as we all know) is an extremist, conservative ideology that promotes traditional values and are largely white, rich, Christian people.
It’s not uncommon for men to float between these three groups, or find some identifying factor in all of them, and there are reasons for that: each group rationalizes and encourages extreme violence towards marginalized others, they all love conspiracy theories, and they’re all huge fans of the Matrix. In the Matrix, Keanu Reeve’s character has to choose between a red pill (which will awaken him to the reality and true nature of his situation) or the blue pill (which will keep him blissfully ignorant and unaware of his reality). The alt-right, the manosphere, and incels all adopted this terminology to refer to their ideologies. They believe that they have been “red-pilled” and awoken to the true nature of our reality as a society, while the rest of society has taken the blue pill and become complacent. For antifeminist groups and misogynistic men, being red-pilled means that they see the feminist movement and women’s rights as an active threat to masculinity. They believe that women have overtaken men, dominate society, and oppress men.
Unfortunately, it’s no real surprise that antifeminist groups are surging in popularity. Antifeminism grew in tandem with its counterpart, the alt-right, as Trump and other conservative leaders came to power. The social media landscape has become more divided and hostile than ever, with more and more spaces for hateful speech and ideology being carved out every day for antifeminism and misogyny to flourish. Additionally, movements like the “Me Too” movement and stories of misconduct towards women making media headlines, with top figures publicly paying the price for it, men are feeling threatened. The combination of all of these socio-political elements over the last decade has resulted in antifeminism and misogyny breaching containment from the dark corners of the internet and ultimately manifesting into a human form, or Andrew Tate.
The Next Generation:
So what does this mean for young boys that are coming of age during all of this? According to a recent Pew Research report, more than 97% of teenage boys said they watch YouTube and more than 77% of teens aged 13-17 use YouTube daily. YouTube is the undisputed champion of all social media platforms for young boys and men. While YouTube houses kid-friendly content like toy openings, influencer families, and Paw Patrol reruns, the YouTube algorithm runs deep. The joke is that you’re always two recommended videos away from ending up on a video straight from the dark web. YouTube has made relatively minor strides in adjusting their algorithm and moderation to keep videos like that off the web. Which is why it’s incredibly easy for a 12 year old boy to look up “how to talk to a girl” on YouTube and end up watching Andrew Tate blame victims of rape for their attack. Or a 17 year old boy to look up “cryptocurrency” and land on a video of Tate talking about how he profited off of female bodies for his cam business.
Andrew Tate’s content (and other content like it) is perfectly suited for the malleable brains of young boys who may be experiencing the frustrations of coming of age: feeling uncomfortable in their bodies, having crushes on girls, and generally trying to understand the male experience. Unfortunately, these very real and normal feelings can be used against these young boys by creators like Andrew Tate, to shape their understanding of the world. Feelings of frustration like “why isn’t this girl talking to me” can quickly turn into “women are against me and I need to be against them” and other anti-women attitudes. Feelings of inadequacy or self consciousness can easily be shaped into a toxic masculine mindset, before young boys have the chance to deal with those issues in a healthy way.
We’re already seeing the implications of young boys identifying with Andrew Tate’s ideology. New York Mag’s Intelligencer, writes an incredible article that dives into the responses of teenage boys to Andrew Tate’s content. The piece, written by Lisa Miller, talks about a 12 year old boy named Christian, who had a tough time starting middle school and is described as having no friends and coming home to play Roblox every day. Despite Chrsitian’s phone having filters set up by his parents, Christian came across Tate in a video by another YouTuber named Sneako, who featured Tate in one of his videos. Christian now says that Andrew changed his life. He goes to parties now and chooses working out or training with friends over video games. Christian has adopted Tate’s mentality that if your mindset about your situation doesn’t change, how will you? On the surface, this is all good and well. Being an inspiration for a child to see beyond the difficulties they encounter so that they can grow and become better versions of themselves is awesome. If it stopped there, it wouldn’t be a problem. But the problem is that it goes deeper than that. These teenagers see Tate as a sort of messiah, a God, or a mentor which inevitably creates apologists and the inability to critically consider the deeper meaning behind Tate’s messages.
Teenage boys in classrooms are becoming a real problem for teachers, especially female teachers. There’s this simultaneously hilarious and scary clip of a student calling himself ‘the alpha’ to his science teacher. Then there’s this awful video of a student arguing with his female teacher over Tate being “innocent until proven guilty” regarding his arrest for human trafficking in Romania.
Gen Z Needs to Step Up:
We’re at a cultural crossroads. While obviously there are Tate-pilled boys and men from all walks of life, the next generation is our future. The next generation is currently the most vulnerable, susceptible, and malleable to material like Andrew Tate content. As a generation that has made it our mission to bring awareness to toxic behaviors in men and the impact it has on women, it is our responsibility to protect younger Gen Zs and Gen Alphas boys from becoming bigots and more women from becoming victims.
Talk to your sons, talk to your brothers, to your nephews, your students. Share your experience with them as a woman who has experienced horrible things from men. Share your experience with them as a man who has already experienced the life stages that they are currently experiencing and show them how you made it through to the other side. Show them the impact that hurtful messages can have on other humans, like their sisters, their moms, or their girlfriends. Show them that being kind, courteous, and understanding isn’t a feminine or masculine debate, it’s a human condition.
Gen Alpha needs us, so let’s show up for them.