OPINION16 January 2023

Why we need to understand the appeal of Andrew Tate

Opinion Trends Youth

Hanna Chalmers considers the popularity of self-proclaimed ‘misogynist’ social influencer Andrew Tate through a cultural lens.

teenage boy using mobile phone

He is suddenly all pervasive after an arrest in Romania, but, if you are a parent of teenage boys, it is likely that you became familiar with the social media influencer and self-proclaimed ‘misogynist’ Andrew Tate a long time ago. Writing both as a researcher and a parent, there is an urgency in exploring and understanding his hero status among a significant number of young men.

And it is the socio-cultural context that helps to explain why his appeal – and others like him – is so compelling at this moment in time.

We are living through a moment of dramatic change and uncertainty – much of it facilitated and enabled (for better and worse) by social media. A much broader range of voices and experiences is heard, and legacy media is also catching up – the people that we look at and see on the TV and in advertising are increasingly reflective of the world we inhabit.

In our hyper visual, hypersexualised culture, it is women and girls that are more visible than ever before – research we have done for the entertainment industry shows the extent to which women are expected to, and gain more attention by, producing far more visual content than men. This sense of greater dominance of women is heightened by brands taking on a female empowerment narrative, as described in the 2021 book Brandsplaining: “Headline grabbing ‘Fempowerment’ narratives often disguise the problem, creating a distracting smokescreen of progress that camouflages the ongoing issues beneath.”

This hyper visibility leads us to believe that women are far more powerful in culture and everyday life than they actually are – the hard data, as we all know, underlines the extent to which gender inequality prevails in so many aspects of life. In fact, this visibility in visual and media culture is totally misrepresentative.

But, while it does feel like there are clear narratives for girls in ‘how to be a woman’ in a fast-moving socio-cultural landscape, in contrast what is missing in contemporary narratives are clear, positive, healthy equivalents of masculinity for boys. At a stage of development defined by feelings of insecurity and burgeoning sexuality, how to be a man, when the very concept of gender is contentious, is hard to navigate. Andrew Tate fills the vacuum, stepping in to provide a seductive and compelling answer.

Tate’s guide to masculinity uses the familiar lexicon of self-help, which is combined with conventional signifiers of success, such as wealth and popularity. This would be relatively harmless if it wasn’t for the infusion of violent misogyny, weaponising feminism as something that men can’t benefit from, and are instead victims of.

In reaction to the progress made on gender equality, Tate pits boys and men against girls and women and offers a clear guide for boys on how to feel ‘powerful’ in everyday life. It is this promise of power, of ‘domination’ in a world that can look and feel like the male sex are relinquishing it to more powerful, confident young women, that can feel so reassuring to Tate’s followers.

This wave of new misogyny has been bubbling under (and over) in social media for nearly a decade as Professor Sarah Banet-Weiser described in her book Empowered: Popular Feminism and Popular Misogyny, but Tate gives it a face, a brand and a narrative of success.

As researchers, marketers or strategists, we are in the business of both understanding and reflecting everyday life. But when cultural phenomena actively encourage a violent and dehumanised attitude towards women, the questions become more fundamental. We must understand the drivers to engagement, but more than that, as an industry, we must take responsibility for reflecting more positive images of masculinity for boys that don’t come at the expense of healthy relationships with girls and women.

Hanna Chalmers is founder at Culture Studio