“Bang out the machete, boom in her face and grip her by the neck. Shut up, bitch.”
“I expect absolute loyalty from my woman. I ain’t having my chicks talking to other dudes.”
“The more you didn’t like it, the more I enjoyed it.”
These are just some of the words of online influencer Andrew Tate, who was arrested at the end of December on suspicion of human trafficking, rape and organised crime together with his brother and two female accomplices.
His appeal against extended detention until 27 February, while the investigation against him is ongoing, was thrown out by judges in Romania on Wednesday.
Tate has denied the allegations. He told press following this week’s court hearing: “Ask them for evidence and they will give you none, because it doesn’t exist.” On Twitter, he said the case is “about attacking my influence on the world”. Before the hearing, a lawyer for the Tates pointed out that charges have not yet been filed against them.
The “king of toxic masculinity” has been banned from every major social media platform for hate speech, misogyny, homophobia and racism. Elon Musk reinstated him upon his Twitter takeover, which is worth a whole separate look into the sexism of tech bro culture.
Content repackaged by Tate’s followers on platforms like TikTok has racked up billions of views and Luxembourg cannot claim to be immune to the problem of toxic influencers, the snake oil salesmen of the social media age, seedy profiteers who sell fake cures.
Struggles of the sexes
Taking men’s issues seriously does not mean denying the discrimination and harassment of women, pervasive sexism and glass ceilings. Struggle is not finite, a zero-sum game between the sexes in which one side loses as another gains. Both can be true.
Male blue collar workers face industry job losses at a higher rate than women who work in more automation-proof pink-collar professions, such as education and care, data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (and other sources) shows. More men work in the most dangerous professions.
Boys are underperforming at school and graduating from university at lower rates. Men are over-represented as both perpetrators and victims of violent crime. They are more likely to die of suicide than women, to suffer from alcoholism and other types of addiction, to sleep rough, to suffer from loneliness and isolation.
To dismiss these facts is to leave a vacuum for influencers such as Tate, who, like all populists, offers simple solutions to complex problems, scapegoating women, progressives and immigrants for robbing (white) men of their due status.
Struggle is not finite, a zero-sum game between the sexes in which one side loses as another gains.
Tate sells his followers a world in which men have no value, an emasculated society in which feminists subjugate men. The normalisation of hypermasculinity, biological reductionism, harmful attitudes against women and their sexualisation becomes wrapped up with self-improvement, cryptocurrency and business tips and a lifestyle of fast cars and ostentatious wealth.
It is a mix that is perhaps dangerously appealing for boys growing from childhood into discovering what masculinity is, but also for men who feel left behind by shifting expectations of what it means to be a man, prompted by women entering male spheres and being freer in their choices. Choices that men have unquestioningly enjoyed for decades if not centuries, although some nuance is needed here, too, based on class and race.
A picture is being painted of female privilege, toxic femininity, reputation savaging, sexual exploitation for personal gain, and unsuspecting nice guys falling victims to malicious women. There are good, middling and bad people in any group of society. These things happen, but womanhood is being vilified by the same men who rally against the vilification of their own sex. Men can be real pricks, too.
While the lines of gender are on the one hand becoming increasingly blurred, popular culture, social media, the Instagram lifestyle and swipe-based dating apps are on the other hand working to entrench exaggerated, segregating and vastly generalising norms: women are like this, and men are like this.
Shifting the narrative
Writer Caitlin Moran on Twitter recently asked people to submit their favourite qualities about men and (mostly) women flooded her feed with accounts of strong, funny, dependable, loving and caring fathers, brothers, partners, sons and friends.
There are men in my life who mean the world to me, men I respect and value. There are men I once loved, men I had hoped would love me. There are also men who made me feel unsafe, belittled me at work. I can believe in systemic discrimination (there are more FTSE 100 company leaders called David than there are women) while recognising that masculinity or men are not intrinsically vicious, much like I’m not man-hating even though I consider myself a feminist.
Tate’s extremism, though, leads down a path of self-fulfilling prophesy as it further alienates men, reinforcing their belief that the odds are stacked against them. A female member of parliament in the UK this week said she had received rape and death threats after publicly speaking out against Tate. In starting a conversation, we cannot give in to the fallacy that if only girls and women were kinder, boys and men would not listen to the vitriol poured in their ears.
It is time to shine a light on the crisis of masculinity, to debate it publicly.
Tate is by no means the only one. His arrest will hopefully cause some to take a step back from the rabbit hole and re-examine what they are becoming, to see how a narrative that pits men against women will bring no-one forward. Whatever comes next for the influencer, however, there already are others and there will be more to replace him.
They are extreme cases, but 22-year-old Elliott Rodger killed six people in a shooting and stabbing spree in California in 2014, saying he had to seek revenge on a society that deprived him of sex and love. Robert Aaron Long, also 22, killed seven women and one man in a rampage in Atlanta in March 2021 over a deep-rooted loathing of the opposite sex. In the UK, 22-year-old Jake Dawson shot and killed five people in August 2021 after posting misogynist diatribes online.
It is time to shine a light on the crisis of masculinity, to debate it publicly rather than letting it fester in the dark corners of the internet. Teachers, youth organisations, parents and--indeed--men need to talk about Andrew Tate and toxic influencers. Not to give them a bigger platform than they already have, but because if we don’t, we leave unchallenged a heinous misogyny that is already finding its way from the fringes into the mainstream.
Cordula Schnuer is Delano’s senior political journalist