It has never been more important to look out for your guy friends. Millions of young men are at risk of getting swept up in dangerous rhetoric that feeds on their deepest fears and stokes their insecurities while doing little to help them adjust to life in an equal and just society.
This time last year, you might have heard of Andrew Tate if you were particularly interested in Kickboxing or reality TV, but in January 2023 he broached the mainstream in a pretty egregious way.
His name has hit the news due to his arrest in Romania on charges of human trafficking among other things, and while this doesn’t paint him in a good light, in a more day-to-day way, Tate is hugely problematic as a cultural figure outside these criminal accusations.
Despite being banned from the platform himself, Tate’s content has millions of views on TikTok, gained through “fan accounts” run by the members of his mentorship-cum-pyramid scheme, Hustler’s Academy. They are incentivised to earn money by recruiting others to the monthly subscription and coached on using controversial clips of Tate to do so. Despite their explicit banning of misogyny, TikTok has done little to curb the proliferation of these accounts.
Elon Musk’s unbanning of Tate on Twitter (he was banned in 2017 for, in part, saying that women must “bear some responsibility” for being raped) means that his influence will only grow, and despite the dressing down provided by climate activist Greta Thunberg and his pending criminal charges, Tate has planted seeds in the minds of over 11.6 billion viewers that will not be easily uprooted. Even after being arrested, his fan base are convinced of his innocence, or perhaps even worse, are convinced that it is the laws that are the problem rather than Tate’s alleged actions.
The flourishing of misogyny
Due to the sheer volume of content and the proliferation of shares, there are good odds that someone in your life has been sucked in by these dangerous ideals. A friend, brother, a colleague; most likely a young straight white man, usually but not always single. It is difficult but vital that we talk to these people.
Even though the misogynist-in-chief, Andrew Tate, seems to be having his comeuppance, it doesn’t mean the ideas he promoted and the ‘manosphere’ as a whole is going anywhere.
So, what can be done to counteract and reverse the damage being done to the young men in our society?
Because most people are sucked into this toxic environment because they are seeking a community, a community of peers is one of the best countermeasures. This means it’s up to us as students and young people to do what we can to help those who are vulnerable to these messages. Men in particular need to be on the lookout for other men in their lives starting down this dangerous path.
It can be really difficult because, to some extent, a lot of what Tate and his ilk are saying looks pretty reasonable. The socially acceptable side of their coin is all about graft, hard work, and intentionality. Nothing immediately damaging on the surface.
However, if left unexamined, the door is open for escalation. It doesn’t take long to get from “you have to work hard to succeed” to “men have to work harder now than they used to” to “because women are demanding jobs and equality” to “they want what is rightfully and historically ours” to “women need to be put in their place.”
It’s a slippery and terrifying slope into the dark.
Communication is key
The way you approach these conversations needs thought and nuance. You can’t go in all guns blazing with anger and accusation. Chances are they already know that Tate is a misogynist and telling them that won’t change their trajectory.
Instead, it’s a matter of gentle probing and questioning. If you see a friend’s attitude change, ask why. Ask them where they heard something and ask them to think critically about their sources. Keep inviting them out, keep them in the groups, and don’t shut them out at the first mention of something concerning because you’ll simply be proving their deepest fears true.
It’s not easy to turn someone around when they have started this journey, but it’s better to try than to wait and watch them treat the women in their lives like a used car. Don’t let it get to the point where your sister is being denied the right to go out with her friends, or your childhood best mate is getting cheated on by someone who thinks it’s his right.
The internet is rife with stories from people who are cutting contact with men who have been taken in by this philosophy. It’s all too common for people to start down this path because the motivation and confidence is genuinely useful for many people. It so often starts with exercise, eating more healthily, better personal hygiene, which is one of the reasons it’s so hard to spot as a negative influence.
But couching extreme views in a body of mostly harmless ones is an escalation tactic that works.
Talk to your friends about misogyny before it’s too late.
Featured Image Credit: BBC