Andrew Tate, a controversial British-American influencer who was arrested in Romania for human trafficking, organized crime and rape, describes himself as “totally misogynist”, adding that “there is no way to belong in reality without being sexist “.
But the 36-year-old former kickboxer, who shot to global internet fame, is certainly not alone in expressing misogynistic views on social media platforms.
But unlike many others, Tate has millions of virtual fans on these platforms. He is part of a group of influencers who have gained popularity, or rather widespread fame, by advocating the reduction of women’s existence to mere subservience to men. Videos with the hashtag #AndrewTate on TikTok alone have garnered over 12.7 billion views, including videos made by people criticizing Andrew Tate using the same hashtag.
The language used in this type of video can be harsh, even vulgar, but these ideas seem to be gaining traction among a generation of teenagers and young adults.
It takes more than just harsh criticism of some of Tate’s statements, because the issue has gone beyond that, to become a real concern for parents, teachers and human rights activists all at the same time.
“I find it very disturbing that so many young people are attracted to these kinds of characters,” author and feminist Natasha Walter told the BBC World Service’s Real Story programme.
“One very worrying thing is that some recent surveys have shown that younger men have more sexist attitudes towards women than older men across the board,” she adds. Richard Reeves of the Brookings Institution believes that Tate’s popularity also lies in cleverly exploiting the algorithms of the many platforms on which his videos are posted. Reeves is also the author of Boys and Men: Why Modern Man Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What Can Be Done About It. Several social media companies, including Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok, have banned Andrew Tate and TikTok said “misogyny is an abhorrent ideology that cannot be tolerated”. Tate was also banned from using his Twitter account for a tweet in which he said women should “take responsibility” for sexual assault. But the site later reinstated his account. “Tate astutely understood that being hated online is just as important as being loved,” says Reeves. “Enemies attract followers and vice versa.”
And Reeves believes that “there’s a difference between audience and subscribers. The vast majority of people who discover his (Andrew Tate) content online will find some of what they consider crazy.” “The ones that worry me are the ones who actually believe what he says,” he added. Echoes of the trend represented by Tate appeared in schools in several countries. In the UK, for example, teachers are faced with a growing number of students who admire Tate. This puts teachers in a position where they have to find the answer and the right answers, including discussing stereotypes, what they are and where they come from.
The prevalence of misogyny
In addition to building a cult following, Tate has become a voice for a growing number of people online who seem emboldened by his views. Journalist and author Sophia Smith-Galler, who studies sexism in online communities, says Tate is certainly not the only provider of this type of content.
“There is such an abundance of content and we know that misogynist content online has increased dramatically since the Corona pandemic, but in fact it has been going on since we started using the internet,” she explains. “There are a lot of Andrew Tate guys out there, and they’ve been around for years,” says Smith-Galler. The question here is: why is this happening? Frank Furedi, emeritus professor of sociology at Britain’s University of Kent, told the BBC that online content cannot be separated from its real-life context. “A person’s online experience is closely related to their offline experience, and many of the things and issues we discuss online now existed before social media existed.” “A lot of these things happen in the real world,” Furedi points out.
Professor Furedi believes that such opinions stem mainly from “people’s longing for a voice, their desire for attention”. For Professor Furedi, the need for attention and recognition goes through the Internet. “I think these social media platforms provide spaces where people can draw attention and they feel noticed or appreciated by making embarrassing or offensive statements,” he says.
Fighting sexism in the real world
Academician Furedi believes that the lack of self-control online is a symptom of a “problem that exists outside the internet”. “We need to take care of the real world of young people, especially men,” he explains. For Natasha Walter, there is a danger that the focus will shift to a case where men appear to be the victims. Far more important, she says, is tackling what she sees as gender stereotypes that “hurt both women and men”.
“Men and women need to be able to work together to break the bonds between masculinity and violence, or between femininity and unpaid work, or between femininity and sexual attraction,” she says. However, Richard Reeves of the Brookings Institution insists that it is important to understand what is driving the rise in demand for misogynistic digital content.
“I don’t think the interest in these things is just because all these men and boys are misogynists, but because many of them are suffering in the workplace, in family life and in school,” he added. “The fact that I say this in no way diminishes the amount of work we still need to do for women and men,” he continues. Although some of the world’s biggest social media platforms have banned Andrew Tate, experts say there is still a lot of work to be done. “I think there is a problem with every platform and this is well documented in all the studies that have been done on targeted bullying online,” says Sofia Smit Galler. “For a social media platform that’s doing really well, for example, it’s necessary to direct resources to be better, more sophisticated and more moderated,” she explains. Journalist Smith Galler acknowledges that moderation is a challenge for these companies given the abundance and prevalence of hate speech of all kinds that they have to deal with, but believes that these companies have some responsibility to make the internet world less discriminatory , exclusive and sexist. . “Obviously there’s so much misogynistic content online that it can be very difficult to try to sort it out, but at least it shouldn’t be amplified.” Tate has previously said his views were “misunderstood” and “taken out of context and exaggerated” to present “false narratives”, and he has denied all allegations of human trafficking and rape against him. Tate was previously kicked off British reality show ‘Big Brother’ in 2016 over a music video in which he appeared to assault a woman. But he later said the video was a “complete lie” and edited it “to make me look bad”.