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“Vulnerable boys are drawn in”; Schools fear of Social Media

by Narges Mohammadi

The notorious TikTok ‘influencer’ may be in jail, but his ‘terrifying’ ideology has already taken hold in classrooms, teachers say

When Abbie Marsh (not her real name) overheard a 15-year-old boy in the West Midlands school she works in; praising Andrew Tate, the social influencer known as the “king of misogyny”. She asked him if he understood Tate’s views on women. The boy replied: “Well, men are better than women, so he’s right.” His friends all nodded in agreement.

Marsh reported the conversation to her school’s head of safeguarding. She says misogyny is rife, even among students as young as 12, and is convinced Tate’s videos are fueling it.

“I don’t think the staff are fully aware who Tate is and what he stands for,” she adds. “I worry for the girls around these boys.”

Where is Andrew Tate now?

The 36-year-old British American is in custody in Romania after being arrested with his brother, Tristan; on 29 December as part of an investigation into human trafficking, rape and organized crime. But while the spotlight has switched to his activities in eastern Europe, schools in the UK are fearful Tate’s boosted media profile in the last few weeks could make his influence stronger than ever.

Many parents may be hearing about Tate for the first time, but schools across the country say he is already a hugely familiar figure to many of their pupils. Many are giving teachers training on how to talk to students about him. Some are holding special assemblies, or using personal social and health education lessons to encourage students to question the content he puts out.

Teachers say boys are often sucked into his “glamorous” ultra-macho world by more benign content on fast cars or fitness. But in his videos he also says women are a man’s property, cannot do jobs as well as men, and belong at home. He thinks rape victims should “bear responsibility” for their attacks and boasts about seeking out 18-year-old girls because they are “fresh”.

Plans on neutralizing this poisonous atmosphere

Michael Conway, whose company Men at Work trains school staff on talking to boys about these issues, says: “Algorithms make it possible for someone like Tate to be hugely well known to 14- to 18-year-old boys”

Conway has run sessions in 50 schools on online misogyny. Teachers have raised Tate’s influence in every one. One teacher talked about a lesson on sexual consent in which a boy quoted Tate, saying if a woman went out alone at night and was attacked it was her fault. Conway says teenagers also mention Tate as a form of “micro-aggression” towards female teachers.

In one session Conway discussed the sexist meme “make me a sandwich”, used by some men on social media to belittle women. “A female teacher said: ‘I’ve got a lad in year 10 who always writes MMAS at the bottom of my homework,’” he says. “She hadn’t known what it meant until then. But he was trying to humiliate her.”

Conway believes Tate is “grooming” young men in a similar way to terrorist groups or gangs, and his image of “conspicuous success” woos boys desperate for a connection.

Schools proceedings

A teacher at a primary school in north London agrees. “It’s the most vulnerable and socially awkward boys that are drawn in and given a sense of belonging to something that is very dangerous.” She describes an “extremely vulnerable” 10-year-old “praising Tate and parroting his vile ideas” as “terrifying”. The school’s lessons on respect “can’t compete with the tidal wave of misogyny online”, she adds.

Helen Hinde, assistant head at Meols Cop high school in Southport, has shared training resources on Tate with other schools, and asked her staff to be alert to any mention of him. “Boys are attracted to him because he tells them he is successful and rich. He is selling a lifestyle,” she says. “When we mention his hatefulness towards women, some excuse it as simply creating a successful life for yourself.”

But she is “determined” to educate her pupils about the darker implications of what he is saying. “We don’t want to blame young people. We want them to learn to question the attitudes they encounter online.”

Other reactions

Ben Karlin, who advises teachers on Twitter about how to counter Tate’s influence, says: “It’s important to try to explain what he’s doing and why. Yes, he’s successful and rich, but he made his money off you. Acknowledge that not everything he says is hateful: that’s his whole tactic.”

Karlin describes Tate’s influence as “grooming on a massive scale” and insists schools must talk about him, as well as explaining how he has “gamed” the social media platforms and exploited their algorithms. “He may go to prison, but there will be another one playing the same game,” he adds.

Thomas Michael, deputy safeguarding lead at a school in the West Midlands, says schools must have open conversations with boys about the issues Tate champions. “I told our year 9 boys that I grew up in a male-dominated family where aggression was celebrated. I got into fights. Then I realised I had to change. I asked them ‘Does that make me less of a man?’”

But he warns that some well-meaning schools are only boosting Tate’s popularity. “There are lots of videos on TikTok of kids recording assemblies on Andrew Tate and they are loving making fun of it,” he says. “He tells them teachers don’t want them to hear the truth. Schools are doing his job for him.”

Source: Guardian

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