What Andrew Tate has taught me about young men (and what schools can do about it)

By Nick Kenny, KYDS Facilitator & Partnership Manager

In every single “young men’s workshop” I’ve facilitated over the past six months, the name Andrew Tate has come up. Tate, a former kickboxer, has made a name for himself hawking his version of “masculinity” online. He has come to prominence based on his views on women and relationships, which include referring to women as “property” and suggesting the use of violence as a mechanism to maintain and control intimate relationships. He has recently been arrested and held on remand for human trafficking, amongst other abhorrent crimes. It is clear why most of the population want nothing to do with Andrew Tate.
What’s less clear is why some young men are drawn to him. In a recent survey of 500 young men conducted by The Man Cave, 90% of boys had heard of him, 30% looked up to him as a role model, and 36% said he was “relatable” (Topsfield & Abbott, 2022). Since it is his click-bait views on women that have received the most attention, what is inferred is that he is tapping into some deep-seated and dormant misogyny among young men, taking, as one commenter put it, “toxic masculinity and throwing gasoline on it” (Madigan, 2023).
There is a thread of truth in this. However, my experience in discussing Tate with young men tells a different story. The vast majority of them disagree with his views on women. What’s more, the trophies he displays as external indicators of “success”, such as the cars, physique, money and fame aren’t the primary goals most of them are drawn to. By digging into discussions around values, I believe the attraction of Tate lies in what he is offering that is either lacking or absent for many young men nowadays – routine/structure, determination and personal development – and this is aligned with research from the Centre for Male Psychology showing that “personal growth” is the single strongest predictor of men’s mental health (Barry, 2021a; Barry, 2021b).
While the appeal of Tate may seem to be a canary in the coal mine, if you scratch beneath the surface of the aggression, sexism, materialism and vanity you find a confused generation searching for treasure in a mountain of trash. It’s our job to get our hands dirty and help them sort through it, so here are some suggestions for how schools can help young men looking in the wrong places for the right reasons:  

1. Avoid "banning" any discussion

What we resist persists. Banning anything consumes a tonne of energy and almost always backfires – especially something non-material like a topic of conversation. It enhances the appeal to the people you least want it to, creates an “all-or-nothing” mentality, and sends the conversation into darker corners with less favourable parameters.
Instead, remain curious and establish guidelines for respectful dialogue. Each of us has a reactive tendency and a desire to control certain narratives, especially sensitive topics like this. However, when we enter the conversation insisting on either one perspective or none, we miss the opportunity to hear what young people truly think, feel and need. What’s more, we miss the opportunity to challenge destructive ideas which then grow, unchecked.

2. Drop the term “toxic masculinity”

This was a phrase born from the mythopoetic movement in the 1980s, with the best of intentions – Shepherd Bliss wanted to describe the harsh, authoritarian “masculine” attitudes steeped in the psyches of men like his ex-military father. Since then, it has come to be used in reference to any behaviour a man displays that someone else doesn’t like. It has risen to such prominence in relation to men in general that in 2018, “toxic” was The Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year, with “toxic masculinity” coming second only to “toxic chemicals” in frequency of use.
However, the term itself is toxic. A study of attitudes towards the terms “toxic”, “traditional” and “positive” masculinity involving 203 men and 53 women in the UK found that  85% of females and 88% of males found the term “insulting”, with similar figures believing it would have a harmful impact on boys if they read or heard about the term, and less than 10% of either sex believing it would help males in general to behave in a more positive way (Barry et al., 2020). More effective language is “mature masculinity” versus “immature masculinity”, or “healthy masculinity” versus “unhealthy masculinity”. By allowing space for both the dark and the light, we can break the demonisation/glorification mentality of people and genders, focus on the continuum of acceptable behaviours/attitudes versus “good and bad people” and begin a values-led process of separating the wheat from the chaff.

3. Create a “positive norm” culture of masculinity

You can’t be what you can’t see. Likewise, telling people what to avoid can and does backfire (Sharma & Sharma, 2015). Research shows that when campaigns are run in schools telling young men “don’t be like this guy”, 95% of the student population may improve, but 5% will actually become worse. While this may sound like a good outcome overall, the 95% who improve are the ones who were unlikely to pose a threat in the first place, while the 5% who become worse are the ones who pose the biggest risk (Williamson & Barry, 2022). Young men, particularly the most vulnerable in our community, need examples of what positive male role models look like, rather than endless messages telling them what not to be – without them, they gravitate to the latter (Nathanson & Young, 2009; Acharya & Relojo, 2017).

4. Show them the gold they are looking for is right in front of them

A great place to start is with the boys themselves – having them recognise the traits within themselves and each other that they admire goes a long way to shifting perceptions and self-fulfilling prophecies of ingrained “toxicity”. You may be fascinated by the shift in young men through something as simple as challenging them to invert their usual deprecating banter into genuine admiration, if only for an hour or a day. From there, you can encourage positive reflections on other male figures in their lives, such as fathers, uncles, teachers, sports coaches, community leaders, and so on.
Ultimately, I see parallels between the Tate phenomenon and the rise of gangster rap in the 1990s – on the surface it may seem to be a fundamental rejection of mainstream society, but listen closely to the young men in your schools and you might hear a disaffected, frustrated and confused demographic often in need of positive role models. Furthermore, they are often seeking opportunities to explore their sense of confusion around their masculinity, which creates the possibility of strengthening prosocial values and corrective conversations. That’s the good news. The better news is, that role model doesn’t have to be people like Andrew Tate or whoever follows. Nor, for that matter, gangster rappers.


  1. Acharya, S. & Relojo, D. (2017). Examining the role of cognitive distortion and parental bonding in depressive symptoms among male adolescents: A randomised crossover trial. Journal of Innovation in Psychology, Education and Didactics, 21(1), 7–20.
  2. Barry, J., Walker, R., Liddon, L. & Seager, M. (2020). Reactions to contemporary narratives about masculinity: A pilot study. Psychreg Journal of Psychology. 4(2), 8-21.
  3. Madigan, M. (2023). Andrew Tate’s sexist propaganda is taking over Australian classrooms. news.com.au, 18th Jan. https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/news-life/andrew-tates-sexist-propaganda-is-taking-over-australian-classrooms/news-story/9a043571889ec66ce41710ede5c1e431 
  4. Nathanson, P., & Young, K. K. (2009). Coming of age as a villain: What every boy needs to know in a misandric world. Boyhood Studies, 3(2), 155–177.
  5. Schuessler, J. (2018). ‘Toxic’ is Oxford’s word of the year. No, we’re not gaslighting you. New York Times. 14th Nov. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/14/arts/toxic-oxford-word-of-the-year-2018.html
  6. Sharma, N., & Sharma, K. (2015). Self-fulfilling prophecy: A literature review. International Journal of Interdisciplinary and Multidisciplinary Studies, 2(3), 41–42.
  7. Topsfield, J. & Abbott, L. (2023). Why some young men idolise Andrew Tate, and young women are disgusted. Sydney Morning Herald. 7th Jan. https://www.smh.com.au/national/why-some-young-men-idolise-andrew-tate-and-young-women-are-disgusted-20230106-p5caqm.html
  8. Williamson, C. & Dr Barry, J. (2023). Does psychology have a negative view of masculinity? Modern Wisdom. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9t147FrV4Y&t=2263s 

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