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Misogyny & Andrew Tate

in KS3 & KS4. Part of our Classroom Conversations Series

How to talk to young people about the rise of internet misogyny

We all know that being a teenager can be tough. It was tough when we were that age, and it’s arguably even tougher for the teenagers of today, whose teenage years are being more influenced by the online world more than ever before. And while the internet can be a source of education and community, sometimes the education and community it provides can be dangerous, such as the rise of incel culture & online misogyny.

In this article we're going to talk about the rise of misogyny and incel culture online, the growing influence of Andrew Tate, and how you can address all of these issues in the classroom, offering some tips on how to do it. Trust us, it might not be easy, but it's definitely necessary.

Looking for resources? Our Safer Internet Day resources this year will look at online influencers and whether they cause harm- you can sign up here to recieve them (totally free).

What is online misogyny & Incel culture?

When this topic of the incel movement was put forward to us by a school, I was already familiar with it. In my 20s, I saw jokes and comments made online about the movement, mocking the members and their attempts to blame women for their problems. I saw /r/incel getting banned from Reddit. I rolled my eyes at what seemed to be yet another group of internet trolls, and moved on.

I never expected to hear "Incels" being brought up at a Prevent conference for anti-terrorism. I never thought teachers would be emailing us concerns about misogyny in their male students and the influence of Andrew Tate, a "pickup artist" who has made a name for himself by sharing controversial and outdated views on women. Slowly I began to realise that what I saw as a small group of frustrated young men had turned out to be something much bigger.

QWhat is misogyny?
A

Misogyny is the hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women. It is a form of prejudice that is often rooted in gender stereotypes and traditional gender roles. Misogyny can manifest in many different ways, ranging from subtle condescension and belittling of women to more overt forms of violence and discrimination.

QWhat does 'Incel' mean?
A

Incel, short for involuntary celibate, is a term that refers to a community of people, usually men, who are unable to find romantic partners despite wanting to. Incels often blame their lack of success with potential partners on society or biology, and may harbour resentment or hatred towards those they believe are ‘more successful in the dating world'.

QWhat is the 'Manosphere'?
A

The 'Manosphere' is a collection of spaces, such as blogs, forums and websites, promoting masculinity and misogyny, and opposing feminism. The Manosphere includes communities such as incels, pickup artists (PUA) and Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW).

QWho is Andrew Tate?
A

Andrew Tate is a British-American "pickup artist" and former kickboxing champion who has gained a following for his controversial rhetoric against women. Tate has been associated with the incel community, and has been accused of promoting misogynistic and violent ideologies to his followers.

So how do you teach it?

My team and I spent a lot of time preparing for our VoteTopic on "Does the internet normalise toxic support groups?" We spoke to Prevent experts, teachers, and parents of teenage boys. We looked at cases of prominent members of these misogynistic communities, which were not easy reading. The more we looked into it, the darker it got.

We worked hard to approach the topic in a way that would be accessible to teachers and would allow productive, non-judgmental dialogues about a topic that I have no doubt teenagers would know more about than the teachers. So, here is what I'd like any teacher or parent planning on broaching the subject to know:

1. they know more than you

As adults, we love to believe that we know more about the world than our teenage counterparts. In many cases, this is true - but not when it comes to the internet. These days, a teenager's world moves fast. They access parts of the internet that we're not even aware of. So when broaching this subject, be aware that even if you research up to your eyeballs, you're probably not going to be the expert in the room.

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So my advice is to be open and encouraging of what your students have to say. Let them lead. Be ready to hear things that may shock you while remembering that, in many cases, it is better that they are said in the safe confines of your classroom rather than spouted online. Our job is to moderate and steer. To lead our students to the right conclusion rather than telling them what to believe. Be open to what they have to say while encouraging respect and tolerance.

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2. being a teenage boy is hard

The teenage years are a confusing time. You are more self-conscious, sexually frustrated, and feeling more isolated than you ever felt as a confident, carefree child. TV and other members of your cohort can have you believing that everyone is having sex, and if you're not, you're falling behind. So, keep this in mind when talking with your class. Many of these young people are struggling with their identity, their bodies, their insecurities, and they are looking for an outlet to express this - and often not finding one. So when someone like Andrew Tate comes along and says that boys are powerful and that the feminist movement is the reason they are feeling like this, you can see how easy it can be for teenage boys to fall into the trap of believing it.

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3. It's easy to (accidentally) fan the flames

It was when Andrew Tate was banned from social media platforms that we received a flurry of requests from schools to cover him. He got banned, his media attention grew and so did his number of supporters. Be aware of this when covering these issues in your lesson - extra attention isn't always a good thing.

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Teachers have shared online how they have tried to tackle these issues with full force only to be met with resistance and resentment. Sometimes even feeling that their pupils have been pushed in the wrong direction as a result of their efforts. So, before you go into the classroom, think about the paths you are highlighting to them. Think about the language and insults you might be arming them with. Know that if you teach them terms like "chads" and "staceys", they will start calling each other "chads" and "staceys".

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Most importantly, try not to over-sensationalise or cast assertions on the members of these groups. Keep your language as neutral as you can and focus on the facts. Empathy is the key here. If you try to fight fire with fire, these at-risk boys will see this as an attack, proof that Tate and his followers were right. Your aim may be to reveal a devil, but they might just see a rebel and a martyr.

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4. These groups are communities

For the lost and disenfranchised, these groups often offer a sense of community and belonging. They provide a home for these frustrated boys - someone to say, "Yes, you're right. It is hard. I understand, and it's not your fault." Like so many extreme groups, they offer easy answers to complex questions and support to those who feel isolated from their existing communities.

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You have to remember that the issues that these boys are dealing with are real and that these groups are providing a sense of solace and understanding. Purely demonising them will not help.

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To remove them from a community, we need to welcome them into another one. Show them that hate and anger aren't long-term plans. So, think about the options in your area. Look up where they can go and who they can speak to. You can find some examples of this in the help sheets as part of our VotePack.

5. There are mental health issues at play here

One thing I noticed that was different about the incel movement compared to other extreme movements was that it was not a philosophy of superiority, but self-hatred. Many members of the community suffer from incredibly low self-worth, and these feelings are only encouraged by the movement.

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The Incel ideology is centred around the idea of the 'Black pill', a nihilistic philosophy that preaches how women are pre-programmed to go for the "alphas" or "chads". That "normies" will get the cast-offs while the incel group can accept that they are at the bottom of the food chain and there's nothing they can do about it.

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For many, their hatred for women seems to come from a feeling of entitlement and a fear of rejection. They want companionship but hate themselves for wanting it. Any attempt at self-improvement or desire to find a partner is often met with ridicule and disgust. Therefore, to improve and grow is to leave your community behind.

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6. solutions can be hard to come by

Talk to someone, we say! Talk to a trusted adult! But think about the staff in your school. In many cases, the majority of teachers and school counsellors are women. For many boys, talking to girls or women is hard. As a teenage boy who doesn't know what to do with their body, they are probably looking for someone who might understand their experiences, their feelings of rejection and sexual frustration. Talking to an adult woman about these confusing times probably won't sound appealing.

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Yes, youth clubs and support groups can help but they often aren't very visible or as readily available as we need them to be. What many of these boys may be looking for is other boys and men to bond with and look up to. So, where do they turn to? The internet, of course.

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7. judgement and outcasting don’t help

Many of the boys and men entering this toxic area already feel like outcasts in their own communities. Their feelings of frustration and low self-worth have turned to anger and hate. For these reasons, your judgment is not welcome here. Demonising men or boys is not going to do you any favours when talking to those who may be vulnerable to this movement.

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Listen to what they have to say and encourage them to reflect on these feelings. Providing an open dialogue can help you address any major concerns. If a teenager feels judged or threatened, they will shut down. It will become a shouting match, or they will put you on their "do not speak" list. None of this is helpful, so try to keep conversations open and non-judgmental.

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8. these conversations can make a difference

In writing this article, it is not my intention to trivialise the anti-feminist movement - it is toxic and harmful to all it touches - but to make you aware that things are rarely as simple as they seem. There are other issues at play here. We fix these issues, the issues that are somewhat in our control, and maybe Andrew Tate has one less follower. Maybe these boys look elsewhere for solace and support. Maybe they now know they can come to you instead. That's all we can hope for.

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Good luck.