Creators share harmful rhetoric in online spaces

February 22, 2023

“Depression isn’t real. You feel sad, you move on… Change it.” That’s just one outspoken quote recently uttered by Andrew Tate, a name that has become household for Gen-Z teenagers. Arrested a month ago in Romania for charges of rape and human trafficking and banned from essentially every social media platform except Twitter, Andrew Tate is a controversial internet behemoth who rose to fame by touting his idea of masculinity and publicly supporting misogynistic practices. 

Mr. Tate began his career as a professional kickboxer, but it wasn’t until he started posting inflammatory content on his TikTok, his podcast and his online academy called “Hustler’s University” that he became a pop culture headliner and icon — for young men. His videos about controlling and abusing women, becoming an “alpha” male, and gaining success and wealth have garnered over 11.6 billion views on TikTok. At one point his Google search interest numbers topped Donald Trump and Kim Kardashian. It’s safe to say that most adolescents surfing the internet have encountered some form of his “education.”

Mr. Tate is far from alone in his controversial philosophies. He is a member of a large web of influencers who believe in male dominance, gender inequality and sexualizing women. This community is called the manosphere, defined by the Institute of Strategic Dialogue as encompassing a range of misogynistic communities from anti-feminism to more explicit, violent rhetoric toward women. 

There is a range of believers in the manosphere, but the most extreme figures think feminism is harmful to society and that all women should subjugate themselves to men, who are currently disadvantaged. Radicals like Elliot Rodgers and Alek Minassian will even resort to mass killings to realize their idea of “rebellion” — taking revenge on all women for simply existing.

The manosphere extends beyond charged phrases and impassioned men arguing theories online. Concrete impacts of toxic masculinity permeate young men at local, individual levels.

A host of advocates have perpetuated the manosphere since the 1970s, evolving as a byproduct of the Men’s Liberation Movement, which began as a relative ally of feminism. After internal tension and a strange reversal, the MLA began advocating for the patriarchy and pushing for male dominance in both public and private life. 

In 1996, Warren Farrell wrote the MLA’s main source of justification against feminism, the book “Myth of Male Power: Why Men Are the Disposable Sex.” During the next decade, outgrowths of the MLA such as the Fathers of Justice and Fathers Manifesto used Farrell’s work and dispersed it via sites such as 4Chan. Today, famous figures including American poker playboy Dan Bilzerian, YouTubers Steven Crowder and SNEAKO, and Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson are all embodying some part of the movement toward restoring “true” masculinity. 

While its misogyny is often dispersed on social media like YouTube, TikTok and Twitter, the manosphere also functions covertly using dialectic dog whistles. Its promoters use specific language to denounce and delineate men and women in society. 

There is also a spectrum of categories of manosphere men. From incels to men’s rights activists (MRA) to pick-up artists (PUA), each subgroup has slightly different views on the relationship between men and women, but all believe cisgender white males have lost their deserving place at the top of society. Members of the incel subgroup identify as victims called subhumans, people who have been dealt the worst hands in society.

Yet the manosphere extends beyond charged phrases and impassioned men arguing theories online. Concrete impacts of toxic masculinity permeate young men at local, individual levels such as reports of increased harassment in the United Kingdom and Australia, and a 2020 report from the HOPE not hate Charitable Trust, which showed in a survey that 50% of young men 16-24 believe feminism makes it more difficult for men to succeed.

The manosphere often provides a justification to explain off the feelings of insecurity and loss that adolescent males face in today’s uncertain climate: rising suicide rates (research from the Australian government supports this), a loneliness crisis due to the effects of COVID-19, and lower rates of education completion and sexual activity.

Andrew Tate will be off the internet for a while, but his legacy of misogyny has only gained greater traction since he left. As young, maturing men encounter a barrage of expectations and the need to manage tougher relationships, more and more are turning to the manosphere community to affirm their masculinity.

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