'He gives me more confidence': 117 young Australian men's thoughts on Andrew Tate.

Public debates at the moment are awash with concerns about young men's sexist and unsafe behaviour online. This includes reports of school students making AI deep fake pornography of their peers, ranking female classmates as well as anxieties about the "manosphere" radicalising young men into misogyny.

On top of this, there are moves to limit or even ban young people's use of social media.

This is why understanding the online experiences of young men is increasingly important, especially given that their own views tend to be absent from these discussions.

The Conversation's research, based on interviews with young Australian men, shows there is a diverse range of views about controversial figures such as "manfluencer" Andrew Tate.

It found many young men are able to engage critically with this content. This is an encouraging finding.

The research.

The study, funded by the eSafety Commissioner, aimed to understand what it is like to be a young man interacting with today's online world.

Researchers spoke to 117 young Australian men, aged 16 to 21. They did 25 online focus groups and 25 follow-up individual interviews during July and August last year. The group reflected diverse backgrounds and identities.

Part of the report included a case study on young men's views of Tate.

Who is Andrew Tate?

Tate is a controversial British-American media influencer. His online content ranges from "general motivational videos […] to more dangerous content that is explicitly misogynistic, homophobic, sexist and conspiratory".

This includes saying women should not be allowed to drive and belong to men in a marriage. Tate is also facing trial in Romania on charges of human trafficking and rape (which he denies).

His influence on young boys' views and behaviour, particularly towards their female teachers, has sparked deep concern among researchers in Australia.

What the research found.

Young men in the study expressed a diverse array of perspectives when it came to Tate and his "male empowerment" content. Some considered Tate an important source of inspiration for general self-improvement and manhood.

For example, Drew* who is 16 and straight and lives with disability said:

I haven’t watched every single video, but the occasional few [I’ve watched have] given me maybe a bit more confidence.

Warren (18, straight) similarly added he was quite supportive of "lots of things" Tate says:

Just being the best version of yourself is stuff that I’ve started to live by.

'He's the only one speaking out.'

Some young men interviewed also felt Tate expresses views about women and gender that are otherwise unsaid or silenced. Others viewed Tate as a good advocate for men. For example, Brenton (21, straight) told researchers he watched a lot of Tate content and agreed with "most of it".

[Tate is] putting out so many opinions on things that haven’t been said in ages because of feminist movements and everything […] [H]e’s the only one speaking out about this sort of male stuff that’s not spoken about.

Jase (20, straight) also talked about how Tate was trying to instil "traditional human male masculinity into today's generation of men".

[In] terms of the whole equality thing, I think the whole social movement has gotten a little extreme and it’s essentially the women’s empowerment movement – they’re trying not exactly to replace us, but kinda.

Other young men were supportive of feminism but said young men also needed positive role models. As Nico, who is 18, straight and lives with disability, told researchers:

There aren’t many strong male role models for younger men growing up. Feminism is getting popular and stuff […] That’s very cool. I, you know, love to see that stuff. However, there’s been a large focus away from masculinity. And I think Andrew Tate [has] an important role in reminding us, you know, [about] what we should try [to strive] towards.

'Painted a bad guy.'

Other young men said controversy over Tate's views was in part due to the way he was reported by mainstream media.

Theo, who is 18, Indigenous and straight, said "he's been painted a bad guy in the media". Manny (18, straight) told researchers:

[Tate’s] just completely different to the way they show him […] I think a lot of this stuff is taken out of context […] like some of the stuff [where] people say that he’s been misogynistic.

'He's making money.'

But there was also a high level of critical awareness among those interviewed about Tate's messaging and approach. Felix (20, bisexual) said male influencers said "outrageous things" to get attention.

People like Andrew Tate – perfect example […] The things he says make me so uncomfortable. It’s just gross, and it’s for attention and it gets the attention of the media.

Others noted being controversial was a way of attracting views and comments on his content. As Henry (16, straight) told researchers:

[H]e also knows that when people [are] getting mad and criticising him, he’s making money for that.

Young men also showed an understanding of how appealing and even manipulative some of Tate's content can be to younger teenagers, who are figuring out their identities. As Vincent (21, straight) told researchers:

[H]e was taking advantage of all these impressionable young people who may [need] another male role model in their life […] I definitely get why people get sucked into it.

Rejecting Tate.

Many of the young men researchers spoke to rejected Tate's views – indeed, there was similar amount of support versus rejection.

This rejection ranged from disinterest to more specific criticism. As Jase (20, straight) told researchers:

Tate’s justifications for cheating on his partners as not ‘cheating’ but ‘exercise’, his focus on how much money he’s got and how many girls he’s been with, and his alleged trafficking. I don’t really wanna consume his content.

As Tristan (18, straight) added:

I think I remember seeing a clip of him saying, like, men are better than women […] I think it’s just a bit stupid.

Others explained they thought Tate was not consistent about his views. And could even be hypocritical.

What now?

There is cause for concern about the potential harms arising from influencers such as Tate and the wide availability of misogynistic content online. But there are also reasons to be optimistic given the variety of ways in which young men engage with this content.

The research highlights the need for a nuanced discussion of the impacts of social media on adolescent boys. It is extremely important not to generalise or stigmatise all young men as "misogynistic" or wholly uncritical and uncaring in their engagement with online spaces.

* Names have been changed.The Conversation

Amanda Keddie, Professor, Education, Deakin University; Josh Roose, Associate Professor of Politics, Deakin University, and Michael Flood, Professor of Sociology, Queensland University of Technology.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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