Photograph: Diicot / Politia Romania
It’s nothing new that young people idolise influential people and celebrities. But the pitfalls become apparent when misogyny and hateful content are readily distributed. Here, a teacher shares her views and explains why Andrew Tate is a danger to boys and young men.
A few weeks ago, in my weekly PSHE lesson (personal, social, health, and economic studies) with my Year 10 students, we tackled the topic of influential and charismatic speakers. My students quickly established that these speakers do not automatically equal good people and were able to give historic and more recent examples of the good (Martin Luther King, Barack Obama) and the bad (Adolf Hitler, Donald Trump).
During our discussion, one of my male students raised his hand and said: “Andrew Tate! He’s cool!” Some of the other boys laughed and nodded in agreement. I hesitated. I’d heard the name before but needed a quick Google search to remind me. I read some of the headlines to my class out loud and concluded by telling my class: “No, this is not someone to look up to!”
Conversations with my colleagues quickly showed that Andrew Tate was not just a topic of conversation amongst my teenagers. Other class teachers of younger and older students reported similar comments in their classrooms, expressing admiration and support for the 36-year-old former kickboxer, who was removed from the Big Brother House in 2016 after footage of him hitting a woman with a belt had emerged.
A dangerous influencer who won't go away
My school’s response was to notify all parents, including links to Tate’s background and opinions. Conversations in the classrooms about Tate subsequently subsided. However, just as I was wondering whether his phenomenon had vanished into thin air together with his questionable opinions, an article from a concerned mother surfaced in early December, echoing my own thoughts about young impressionable teenagers in my classroom.
The age of online influencers and the reach of social media are responsible for molding and shaping young people's views of most aspects of life, be it beauty, fashion, lifestyle, or education. That also includes their political and social views, as reports suggest that most 12 to 15-year-olds get their news from social media platforms.
Seeing someone famous and rich online may have a direct impact on many young people, especially during a time when their brains are not quite fully developed, making them more susceptible to extreme and radical views.
What is particularly worrying is that Tate’s influence permeates boys and young men of all different backgrounds, regardless of their upbringing. Misogyny does not discriminate class, social background, or culture.
As a female teacher of teenagers, I am used to disagreements, arguments, and students pushing boundaries. It’s normal development, it’s part of life and part of my job. What’s really scary, however, is when male students suddenly become totally disrespectful and uncooperative and regurgitate hateful comments against women.
Money and media exposure over integrity and human rights
Unfortunately, it is likely that Tate’s opinions will continue to flood the internet. Despite the fact that he was banned from all social media platforms on April 19th, 2022, Tate, along with Donald Trump, has been allowed to return to Twitter since Elon Musk became its CEO. The one question certainly on my mind: why on earth are people like Tate allowed to continue to have a platform and influence so many boys and young men with dangerous opinions?
In the 21st century, where fights for gender equality and feminist movements worldwide continue to dominate the news, Andrew Tate may be one of the reasons why education around misogyny and the mistreatment of women is still important.
Tweet to Greta Thunberg and subsequent arrest
It remains to be seen whether the recent backlash following Tate’s tweet to Great Thunberg over mocking her for her environmental activism and his arrest in Romania on human trafficking and rape charges will change his image and status as a role model for youngsters. What is evident, regardless, is that society and policies as a whole need to do more to protect young people from online exposure to extreme and radical influencers.
Equally, education and open conversations are essential and critical to a more equal and peaceful society, whether in person or online. However, as a teacher, there is only so much you can do to change and avert harmful opinions and views. It's everyone's responsibility to stand against misogyny and sexism.
As the plot surrounding Tate's arrest thickens and adds to his portfolio as a high-profile misogynist and women hater, I wonder whether I'll be having more conversations with my students about a man who believes that women ‘should bear the responsibility for being sexually assaulted’. Unfortunately, I fear it's not the last we've heard of Andrew Tate. Let’s hope the next news comes from a courtroom.