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Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

SocietyAugust 20, 2022

Andrew Tate is a new virus in our schools

Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

The internet personality’s ugly misogyny is a new pandemic infecting schools across the country, write two young teachers.

We are two young female educators who work at an all-boys secondary school in New Zealand. In the last few weeks we have noticed an increasing addiction to Andrew Tate among our students, especially our juniors aged 12-14. His name has become our school’s own pandemic that we currently have no treatment for, let alone an effective cure.

As The Spinoff explained earlier this week, Tate is a hugely popular online influencer who has made a career out of brutal misogyny. Our students have quickly become unhealthily obsessed with him and the violent views he puts out into the world. This obsession is even influencing our most unlikely students – and it’s making itself apparent not only in their own interactions, but also how they treat female members of staff.

Andrew Tate (Image: Supplied / Tina Tiller)

Recently one of our more reserved students approached one of us at the end of a lesson, without prompting, and confidently asked: “Do you think a woman still has the right to say ‘my body my choice’ after she’s had two previous abortions?” He seemed very sure that having an abortion means she “loses that right” and also the “right to claim motherhood”. We’ve also heard boys echo Tate’s claims that women who are sexually assaulted are “asking for it” because of what they wear and that “some women dress like hookers”. Even students who may not directly engage in these conversations still often laugh along with the “jokes” or use images of Tate in presentations to get a laugh from their peers.

The boys we teach see Tate as a strong male role model who embodies what it is to be a successful man. Boys as young as 12 or 13 are confidently identifying him as their “idol” and expressing the desire to live the life he has. While we encourage our young men to have positive role models and clear future ambitions, we are sure that one espousing such clear misogyny, violence and criminal activity is one we cannot support. Our biggest concern is that our students are beginning to fundamentally believe that success is synonymous with abusing women.

Sexual violence has now become a part of their everyday vocabulary. We are hearing increasingly more open and loud conversations threatening rape or joking about rape. The boys are making no attempt to hide these conversations; this topic does not embarrass them any more or make them feel uncomfortable when challenged or questioned. As young female teachers, you can imagine how genuinely terrifying this is. These blase comments have even infiltrated younger school communities. One of our teaching colleagues told us her Year 8 daughter asked her what a “slut” is last night because the “boys at school were calling us sluts for having short skirts”. We believe that an 11-year-old having “slut” as part of her vocabulary, years before she should even learn the word, is a direct result of the Andrew Tate phenomenon.

On multiple occasions we’ve had to explain in depth to our boys why we do not want Andrew Tate’s name in our classroom. We’ve explained how he genuinely terrifies us as women. We’ve then had to explain further that we do not wish to speak about a man who has a history of physically abusing women, does not believe survivors of sexual assault and does not value us or the education we provide. While a lot of the boys seem to have taken what we say on board, we’re finding ourselves having to engage in the same conversation multiple times to multiple classes.

We have tried to combat the growing influence of Andrew Tate by opening a conversation aimed at teaching our students about basic morality. Young people learn from being able to express their thoughts with someone they trust. We are currently pushing for a school-wide policy on addressing this radicalisation of our young students. We do not believe this should ever be a fight that a single teacher, more specifically one of our young female teachers, is forced to engage in alone. This phenomenon has alerted us to the fact that our education system does not have a universal approach to misogyny. There is no age limit for teaching young people about human rights, feminism and the dangers of radicalisation. They need to see it modelled in everyday actions, interactions and behaviour. We do not want the topic of equality to be controversial – we are fighting for the opposite. We aim to raise empathetic and self-aware young men who want to combat inequality.

As educators, we are responsible for only a small part of the shaping of these young men and their attitudes. We are unable to control what they watch and listen to at home. For misogyny to be overcome it needs to be addressed in all aspects of a student’s life. We implore parents: do your own research into Andrew Tate and have an open and honest conversation with your children about this dangerous man.

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