I have a teenage cousin who loves Andrew Tate. This became an issue recently when he posted one of his videos in the family WhatsApp group and I was dispatched by my mum to “have a chat” with him. I think I was supposed to tell him off, but to be honest – I understand why he is drawn to Tate. My cousin is a good kid who’s working hard to better himself, just as I was at his age.
On the surface, Tate preaches hard work, determination and “no excuses”: values my cousin probably sees as parallel to 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 – either you want it or you don’t.”
Tate’s views may appeal to teenagers, but he is currently detained, awaiting trial for rape and human trafficking. He denies all allegations, and has pledged $100m (£85m) to start a charity in his will for men faced with false accusations.
Tate was banned from Twitter for saying women should “bear responsibility” for being raped. He has also said he would not allow his partner to go on a girls’ holiday because: “it’s disrespectful”. The 36-year-old’s predilection for young women may be the creepiest facet of his persona; he says he mainly dates 19-year-olds because he can: “make an imprint” on them. When I asked my cousin if he thought Tate was a misogynist, he replied he “wasn’t sure” – even though Tate describes himself as one .
My cousin is far from the only young man enthralled by him. Videos tagged #AndrewTate on TikTok have been viewed more than 12.7bn times. This matters. I’m 25 and other than sport and Love Island, I haven’t watched television in a decade. If you are 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 is anything but fringe.
Imagine you are a young man and your first time encountering Tate is not in a newspaper article like this, but rather a YouTube video titled “FIX YOUR MIND – Motivational Speech”. In the video, Tate dishes out harsh truths about money, success and endeavour. It is easy to see how it could inspire someone feeling powerless or confused about their place in the world: “You’ve got to play the cards you’re dealt,” he says. “If you’re 5ft 2in you need to become strong, and rich, and charismatic. If you’re 6ft 4in, you need to become rich, strong, well-connected. It’s the same game.” It is this messaging – the subtler, motivational stuff – that has given him such a following. If Tateism has a message, it’s about male emancipation.
While the technology that delivers Tate’s views might be new, much of his persona 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. There are fast cars being driven irresponsibly. We like to think the lads’ mags that pedalled all this in the 90s and 00s went out of business because the world became a more enlightened place; but they went out of business because the audience went online.
The difference with Tate is that the women are not solely there for titillation. They are both direct objects of his misogyny, and their behaviour is used by Tate as justification for that misogyny. Comparing gender roles to chess, he says: “The king moves one square at a time and the queen can just zip across the board. So you’re partying in Miami – you see all these chicks on a boat. For the man 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 right, he has to go through all this shit, stage by stage … a chick, what does she need? Lip fillers? Boom. Zip. That’s the difference between the king and the queen.”
Reprehensible it may be, but Tate’s baseless misogyny and “me-first, get-yours” narcissism is alluring to young men at a time when mainstream culture is telling them to check their privilege for reasons they don’t fully understand.
I hope it’s not too late for my cousin and that his flirtation with Tate’s toxic message is just a phase – a part of growing up that I worry is inevitable these days. That’s why a new framework for online safety is needed, one that recognises that the harmful content comes looking for you now via your social media algorithm and the “bad” looks just the same as 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 any proper education about sex, consent or relationships until we were 13, by which time we had learned it all from internet porn and lads’ mags. Teachers and parents have to be proactive about telling boys what mutually respectful sex is before they’re exposed to something else all together.
My cousin’s had a tough time recently, riven with personal and professional insecurity, amped up by a pandemic and a recession. In that context, I understand Tate’s appeal – an alternative lifestyle guru, saying get yours, before someone else takes it.
What makes me saddest is that it’s taken 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 chats with my cousin about what, and who, he was getting into.