TW: graphic content.
Andrew Tate is the latest in a slew of men turning their misogynistic ‘hot takes’ into a business – attempting to subvert reality and to position (mainly white, cis-het) men as the victims of society, through vilanising and bullying women. From Joe Rogan, to Logan Paul, Dan Bilzerian, Hunter Moore and Alex Jones; self-identified ‘Alpha Males’ are selling misogyny dressed up as motivational speaking to the masses via social media. While many laugh men like Tate off, the rise in his popularity is a red flag and needs to be addressed.
So, what exactly does he do? Tate, 35, born in Chicago, USA, worked as a professional kickboxer under the name Cobra Tate, where he became world champion, before becoming a quasi-influencer. Currently, he has 3.9M followers on his Instagram @cobratate and has a YouTube channel with 666k subscribers. Lately, his popularity has risen with TikTok, where fans will recut videos of him appearing on podcasts and sell them as advice, which regularly go viral. This week, he appeared on The Pomp Podcast, where he made comments like “Racisms for the poor people”, a clip which has seen almost 3M views on TikTok. He’s built a cult following of millions over the years, and has started an online business coaching program, Hustler’s University. His website describes it as a “global community that offers courses in freelancing, investing, and business” It was founded in 2021 by Andrew ‘Cobra’ Tate and has more than 110,000 active members today. Students will “learn Stocks, Crypto, E-commerce, Copywriting, and more”, The site proclaims that “a number of War Room members will teach YOU exactly how to make money online”, and charges £337 for a PhD. If it’s not already obvious, this is not a real university.
Making money off of misogyny is not new, it is infrastructural to society but it is rarely quite so bullish and simplistic. Women in the UK are paid just 90p for £1 earned by men. Historically, men have continually taken credit for the work of women. And then there’s the unpaid jobs women traditionally undertake – emotional labour, child-care, housework etc; all of which benefits the patriarchy.
You might recognise Tate from his appearance on the 17th season of Big Brother, on which he only lasted a week. Video footage, initially obtained by The Sun, saw Tate hitting a woman with a belt. He was consequently removed from the reality series when they were made aware of this video. He defended the footage, insisting it was a consensual encounter and that the belt was made from felt, saying “the video The Sun will release is me hitting a girl with a belt. They edited out ALL of the laughing and joking and it’s felt! They are pretending I beat her up when we were joking and the belt made noise but didn’t hurt! They cut all laughing.”
Tate is part of a new-wave of men propositioning themselves as a masculine ideal that is directly opposed to feminism has been propelled with the rise in podcasting and platforms like TikTok; dialogue that wouldn’t look out of place on forums run by incels, has now made itself more mainstream. If you are active on TikTok you may have been served videos of Tate, regardless of whether your views align with his, but it is evidence of his success – the algorithms work on engagement, and he gets spade loads of that. Whether the sentiment is positive or negative, matters less.
Tate was banned from Twitter in 2017, for saying that women should “bear some responsibility” for being raped. He operated at least three accounts on the platform that have been taken down, yet earlier this year, Twitter verified one of them accidentally. The same handle that had previously been banned. His main presence is now on TikTok, where hundreds of fan accounts edit videos of Tate speaking, routinely going viral and sparking debate. His own (verified) account has 320k followers.
I’m wary of giving more airtime to Tate’s vitriol, when its accessibility is what’s so concerning – but it is important for context. Because this isn’t grey-area discrimination or a bias-against-women, it is anti-women hate speech. Here’s an example. On one TikTok video currently going viral, Tate can be heard saying: “I’m a sexist. I’m misogynistic because I believe females are weaker than men. That makes me a bad person in a feminist’s mind. If someone breaks in the house I’m not sending her to fight, that’s my job right. I have to risk my life to protect her. So when someone doesn’t break in the house, and I ask her for breakfast, I expect it to be made”
And “a man can only cheat if he loves someone else. If I have a woman who I truly love and I go out and f**ck and I come back to her and I don’t care about her, and I only love my girl, that’s not cheating. That’s exercise. If she even talks to a dude, that’s cheating”.
In a now-deleted-tweets from 2017, tweets that got him banned, he said:
“Women have been exchanging sex for opportunity for a very long time. Some did this. Weren’t abused. […] If you put yourself in a position to be raped, you must bare some responsibility.”
On a now-removed YouTube video, Tate said men are less likely to face rape charges in Eastern European countries, saying this difference in charges is “probably 40% of the reason” why he moved to Romania: “I’m not a rapist, but I like the idea of just being able to do what I want. I like being free.”
This is just a snapshot, his rhetoric is so steeped in misogyny it’s hard to find a single video where he isn’t degrading women or spreading toxic masculinity. His content is dangerous for women. It is damaging for men.
With the rise of more nuanced and progressive feminism working its way into public cousciousness, it’s not surprising that a counterculture would take legs. Men like Andrew Tate or the slightly less-controversial Joe Rogan know that there’s an audience in these spaces: the patriarchy is very much alive, we’re living in a crisis of male violence against women and laws that predominantly protect women are being stripped away. The World Health Organisation found that across their lifetime, 1 in 3 women, around 736 million, are subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence from a non-partner – a number that has remained largely unchanged over the past decade. Tate is a man who regularly calls women bitches and whores, has victim blamed women who have been sexually assaulted, saying “f you put yourself in a position to be raped, you must bare some responsibility,” and in April 2022, Tate’s home in Romania was raided under an investigation of human trafficking.
As someone who works in social media and campaigns on feminsit issues, I can see in real-time that people who hold misogynistic views are increasingly looking for validation, and that these pseudo-philosophers-turned-viral-motivational-speakers are there to make their discrimination and hate seem rational.
Nabamallika Dehingia, Rebecka Lundgren, Arnab K. Dey and Anita Raj from the Centre on Gender Equity and Health, University of California San Diego, analysed 19.8 million tweets from five South-Asain countries, posted between November 2019 and October 2020. They found that the percentage of tweets containing misogynistic content increased significantly in South Asia during the pandemic; a consistent and steady increase was observed particularly since July 2020 and distinct peaks in the volume of misogynistic tweets were observed in response to specific events related to gender rights. In 2017 Amnesty found that in the UK, one in five women have suffered online abuse or harassment. In 2020, Plan International surveyed 14,071 teenagers and young woman aged 15-25 across 22 countries, finding that the most common type of online harm was abusive and insulting language (reported by 59% of respondents), followed by deliberate embarrassment (41%) as well as body shaming and threats of sexual violence (both 39%). The internet is an extension of real life, just as women are abused, sexual harrassed, slut shamed in person, online is the same: but the anomonity makes it even easier for this abuse to go unchecked. Happening in parallel, is the rise of incel culture which has found roots on social media and seeped into the world; in the UK, at least two recent terror trails cited incel ideas as a motivation. As I said, men like Andrew Tate and Alex Jones don’t exist in a vacuum. They know that men who hate women are a large audience online, they know that these men want someone to look up to, someone who is rich and appears to have a lot of sex with women and will put said person on a peddlestool. And, that they will spend money in order to emulate them. Tate’s ‘university’ is evidence of this.
With his notoriety and virality, women (and a few men) have been speaking out against him, memes have been circulating about how liking Andew Tate is a good litmus test for who to avoid and spoofs of his content are gaining traction. This push back is necessary, but there’s also a worrying middle ground rising. A lot of people claim they are following him as a joke, and multiple podcasters have invited him onto their shows to ‘pick his brain’.
This memeification of serious misogyny creates a culture where we laugh off very extreme behaviour. It might start with a joke, but then it can move to “he has a point ” and finally it ends in becoming another one of his indoctrinated fans. And Tate knows this – often he will make statements that are less controversial, waxing lyrical about success or self autonomy, before descending into a rant about how women are whores he knows radicalisation happens via stepping stones. Men like Tate do not exist in a vacuum, and they are not created overnight. You can not watch his videos ‘ironically’, it is not satire, it is propaganda against women.
Andrew Tate has seemingly appeared out of nowhere, breaking out from the fringes. This astronomical rise is not surprising, it’s scary, but not surprising. Misogyny has gone mainstream, and someone giving their face to it so unabashedly is appealing to hordes of young boys and men.
To win, we must continue to call him and his peers out, ask social platforms to restrict his accounts or take down the videos that contain hate speech, we must not laugh him off or excuse those who claim to enjoy his content as a joke.