A Call to Redefine Masculinity in the Age of the Internet
For better or worse, Andrew Tate’s monumental rise and the resulting dramas, controversies and headlines have thrust issues of masculinity into the spotlight as of late.
Tate’s rhetoric about patriarchal masculinity has captured the hearts of disenfranchised men the world over, and incurred the wrath of just as many bloggers, journalists and essayists decrying his misogyny.
Beneath all this criticism lies a single, often unspoken question: Why him? Why are so many young men listening to and idolising a man who is, among other things, an alleged rapist and human trafficker? Why are so many boys willing to defend a man so obviously indefensible?
The answer often given by Tate’s supporters is that he is entertaining. His audience doesn’t actually buy into his message, they say. They know it’s an act. His appeal lies in the fact that his absurdity makes for a good show, not in his actual politics.
And whilst there’s a truth there—his antics generate controversy and are promoted by engagement-hungry social media algorithms, driving his immense popularity—the sheer numbers drawn in suggest that there is more to it than that.
The truth is, many boys and men genuinely turn to Andrew Tate for advice on how to be a successful man. The billions of views are a testament to this, but the personal stories really hit home. Most of us know someone—or perhaps we are that someone—enraptured by Tate’s bigotry. He is not mere entertainment; Andrew Tate is a genuine cultural force.
His success is driven, in part, by the typical social media extremism pipeline. This involves potential audiences being introduced to his more palatable content first, which largely consists of motivational quotes and videos about the importance of discipline and hard work.
It’s bog-standard hustler advice—get up early in the morning, work hard, exercise, and so on—but it’s relatively benign. It carries sexist assumptions with it, of course, but it’s hardly worth the outrage.
What is worth the outrage is how Tate’s views on masculinity quickly become a call to dominance. His definition of discipline lends itself to patriarchy as he calls on men to assert themselves, not only over themselves, but also over the women in their lives. What begins as hard work rhetoric becomes an exultation of materialism; a call for self-determination becomes one for oppression.
Still, this is nothing new. This strategy of maintaining social media engagement—beginning with somewhat acceptable content and steadily moving towards the political extremes—is the same pipeline that leads to climate denial, conspiracy theories and online neo-Nazism.
Likewise, misogyny is nothing new, nor is Tate’s specific brand of it. His rhetoric is hardly surprising to those familiar with online manosphere communities, which often glorify a romanticised image of a pretty little housewife and a strong provider husband raising a family. Not that Tate’s promiscuous lifestyle is compatible with that image, mind you, but patriarchy hardly cares for internal consistency.
Perhaps then, rather than looking at Tate himself for answers, we should consider the boys who idolise him. Instead of asking why him, perhaps we should be asking, why now?
Tate’s audience consists largely of young boys, which is concerning precisely because they have been raised in a generation in which progress has been made towards gender equality.
There’s much work to be done, of course, but gender roles aren’t what they once were. These are boys who have been raised in a generation in which it is increasingly normal (if not perfectly equitable) for women to become leaders, revolutionaries, and CEOs. Why then are they drawn to such hateful, regressive politics? Shouldn’t they know better?
Evidence suggests there is an issue in the way boys are socialised. The fact that these boys are buying into a patriarchal masculinity characterised by materialism and predatory sexuality suggests that there is a demand for it. And if boys are not born with these beliefs, they must learn them somewhere.
It seems that many boys are still taught, whether by men, women, peers, or the media, to view masculinity through a dominator model. If they weren’t, the appeal for men like Tate simply wouldn’t exist.
Yet, for many young men, the role of the patriarch is unobtainable. Consider the current cost-of-living crisis and the insufficient wage growth rates of the last few years. These factors create an unstable economic climate. So, for many young men entering the workforce, the idea of being able to provide for themselves is a fantasy, let alone providing for a wife and children.
Many men simply cannot fulfil the gender role of a hardworking provider due to circumstances outside of their control. Under this lens, Andrew Tate’s rhetoric becomes a reassuring hum.
He sells young men a pathway to financial freedom and, to boys who have been taught to equate materialism with masculinity—yet feel oppressed by an unstable economy—that can be intoxicating. The harsh truth, however, is that no amount of individual hard work will stabilise an uncertain economy, and no amount of money will satiate the insecurities these men feel at not being rich enough.
Also consider the fact that women are increasingly independent of men. A male provider is simply unnecessary for a woman with her own income. This change in relationship dynamics, and the independence it brings with it, is undeniably good for women, but it creates a masculine identity crisis.
For a generation of men still socialised to view sexual domination as a demonstration of masculinity, the fact that they are increasingly isolated and marry at later ages becomes a personal failing to fulfil their gender role. The angst this creates is then easily exploited by the hypermasculine personas of influencers like Tate and the success they promise.
Men are not inherently entitled; they are taught to view women as objects used to assert their value as men. It’s no surprise, then, that disenfranchised, lonely men blame women for their failings. This is an inevitable consequence of the way we conceptualise masculinity.
Tate simply voices the bitterness of men sold empty promises, whilst he sells a fantasy lifestyle that blinds boys to the truth—even if this patriarchal ideal was possible, it still wouldn’t be enough. The insecurities would remain. There is no such thing as rich enough or sexy enough. The competitive nature of patriarchy ensures that.
As long as men are taught to pursue an absurd caricature of masculinity, they will never reach a point of satisfaction. And as long as they’re unsatisfied, Tate can continue to bundle up his bigoted ideology and sell it for $50 USD a month.
Andrew Tate is an inevitable symptom of a culture that continues to sell boys the lies of patriarchal masculinity. Tate may be facing some serious charges now, but his influence and ideology won’t die unless we redefine what it means to be a man. And to do that, we all need to play our part.
We need positive forces of masculinity in the lives of boys. We need the media to challenge traditional depictions of masculinity, and we need to take an active role in teaching our boys what it should mean to be a man. We need to create a new masculinity built on love and compassion, not domination. Feminism has made progress towards redefining what it means to be a woman. It is time we men follow suit.
Join the Glimmer community to help you lead a healthier, more balanced life.
Looking for more articles on wellbeing and sustainability? See these Glimmer articles.