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I have a teenage cousin who adores Andrew Tate. This recently became a problem when he posted one of his videos to the family WhatsApp group and I was sent by my mom to “chat” with him. I guess I should have told him, but to be honest – I understand why he’s attracted to Tate. My cousin is a good boy who works hard to better himself, just like I was at his age.
On the face of it, Tate preaches hard work, determination and “no excuses”: values my cousin probably sees as paralleling the philosophy of our Nigerian immigrant family. “He’s funny,” my cousin said when I asked him why he watches Tate’s videos. “And his view of success is very binary — you either want it or you don’t.”
Tate’s views may appeal to teenagers, but he is currently in jail awaiting trial for rape and human trafficking. He denies all allegations and has pledged $100 million in his will to set up a charity for men facing false accusations.
Tate was banned from Twitter for saying women “should take responsibility” for rape. He has also said he wouldn’t let his partner go on a girls’ vacation because: “it’s disrespectful”. The 36-year-old’s penchant for young women is perhaps the scariest facet of his personality; he says he mainly dates 19-year-olds because he: “can make an impression on them”. When I asked my cousin if he thought Tate was a misogynist, he replied that he “wasn’t sure” – even though Tate describes herself as a woman.
My cousin is by no means the only young man who is fascinated by him. Videos tagged #AndrewTate on TikTok have been viewed more than 12.7 billion times. This is important. I’m 25 and apart from sports and Love Island I haven’t watched television in ten years. If you’re my age or younger, Tate’s videos are as mainstream as the six o’clock news. Tate may have styled himself as a cult preacher, but he’s anything but frills.
Imagine you are a young man and you meet Tate for the first time not in a newspaper article like this, but rather in a YouTube video titled “FIX YOUR MIND – Motivational Speech”. In the video, Tate tells hard truths about money, success and aspiration. It’s easy to see how it could inspire someone who feels powerless or confused about their place in the world: “You have to play the cards you’re dealt,” he says. “If you are 5ft 2in you have to become strong, rich and charismatic. If you are 6ft 4in you need to get rich, strong and well connected. It’s the same game.” It’s this message – the subtler, motivating stuff – that has earned him such a following. If Tateism has a message, it is about the emancipation of men.
While the technology that delivers Tate’s views may be new, much of his personality is a throwback to older ideas of masculinity. Tate is TikTok’s Tony Montana: “First you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the woman.” Women appear in the background of his videos wearing very little and saying even less. Fast cars are driven irresponsibly. We like to think that the magazines of the guys who sold all this in the 90’s and 00’s went out of business because the world became a more enlightened place; but they went out of business because the public went online.
The difference with Tate is that the women are not just there for the titillating. They are both direct objects of his misogyny, and their behavior is used by Tate as a justification for that misogyny. Comparing gender roles to chess, he says, “The king moves square by square and the queen can just slide across the board. So you’re partying in Miami – you see all these girls on a boat. In order for the guy to get on that boat, he has to move one square at a time: he has to get a good job, he has to get his credit in order, he has to go through all this crap, phase by phase… a girl, what does she need? Lip fillers? Tree. Row. That’s the difference between the king and the queen.”
It may be reprehensible, but Tate’s unwarranted misogyny and “me-first, get-your” narcissism appeals to young men at a time when the mainstream tells them to check their privileges for reasons they don’t quite understand.
I hope it’s not too late for my cousin and that his flirtation with Tate’s poisonous message is just a phase – part of growing up that I worry is unavoidable these days. That’s why a new online safety framework is needed, one that recognizes that the harmful content now comes looking for you through your social media algorithm and that the ‘bad’ looks exactly like the ‘good’ on a TikTok feed.
We can’t afford to be English about this sort of thing. My friends and I didn’t get proper education about sex, consent, or relationships until we were 13, by which time we’d learned it all from internet porn and boy magazines. Teachers and parents should be proactive about teaching boys what mutually respectful sex is before exposing them to anything else together.
My cousin has been struggling lately, torn apart by personal and professional uncertainty, amplified by a pandemic and a recession. In that context, I understand the appeal of Tate – an alternative lifestyle guru who says get yours before someone else takes it.
What saddens me the most is that it took someone like Tate to bring us together. Sometimes all young men need is each other. Unfortunately, I was too busy “getting mine” to have a few conversations with my cousin about what and who he was up to.