Many point to the infamous lifestyle influencer, Andrew Tate – who was arrested by Romanian police in December on charges of human trafficking and sexual assault – as the spearhead of misogyny online. However, the bias towards women goes much deeper; it starts with our girls. Teenage girls specifically are treated as a sacrificial lamb of sorts, for people online to project their insecurity onto. There are countless “cringe compilations“ dedicated to mocking teenage girls for recording TikToks of themselves dressed up as anime characters. And if you were to scroll down to the comment section, you’d get an eyeful of the vitriol directed towards children. The question is, why does it have to be this way?
The Internet didn’t create misogyny–nor popularize it—by any means. Aristotle wrote women are “as it were, a deformity [of men].” Fredrich Nietzche, widely considered to be one of the most influential philosophers in history, declared women were incapable of genuine friendship in his magnum opus Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
Simply, there are too many sources to precisely pinpoint where prejudice against women sprouted. Although women were acknowledged as life givers throughout Mesopotamia, that same role imposed on them made them the man’s wife and keeper of the home. In comparison to “masculine” activities like politics or capturing territory, domestic housework seems soft.
A strength and fatal flaw of social media is its ability to transmit ideas. With the rise of TikTok, one-minute videos, and endless scrolling, anyone with a cellphone can readily broadcast to an audience.
Ruby, a Sprayberry High School junior, says, “Social media is a double edged [sic] sword because of the good and bad it brings.”
Along those lines, social media can also proliferate bigotry, including–especially–such towards women.
The AI algorithms of TikTok and YouTube further exacerbate the issue; if a teen clicks a “pick-up artists’” video一that is, men who aim to seduce (harass) women on the street for sport, reinforcing the idea women are carnival prizes to be won— they’re sent down the spiral of “alpha male” content.
Which brings us back to Andrew Tate. Tate is a self-described “toxically masculine” social media influencer. In the past, Tate offered a lifestyle course called “Hustler’s University,” with a harmless goal; to free young men from “socially-induced incarceration” and lead them to financial freedom. However, not only was Tate exposed for misogynistic posts online. Footage has also circulated of his time on Big Brother in 2016 allegedly assaulting a woman. With his recent arrest in Romania, Tate’s future is uncertain, but his videos have clearly affected his target demographic: teenage boys.
Adolescent boys project the views held by people like Tate onto the women they see the most often: teenage girls. While these lifestyle influencers’ audiences do include adults as well, younger men soak up the messages much more efficiently. Adolescents have a growing brain, more developed than one of a young child’s, but without the self-determination of an adult’s. This creates an unsteady self-image. And coupled with the self-cannibalizing environment that is high school, teenagers seek validation and guidance.
Miranda, a Sprayberry High School senior says, “There is no appeal [to influencers like Tate], I think that they don’t realize the true gravity of their rhetoric and that they’re actually impacting kids’ lives, how they act and how they grow up. As well as who they hurt from their behavior [sic].”
Tate’s content is especially insidious because it provides that validation packaged with bigotry. It says, yes you can be independent and rich with hard work and women are part of the reason why you’re not successful right now.
In response to the question, “how much does social media play a major role in how teen boys and girls interact,” Quincy, a Sprayberry High School junior, said. “Most definitely [it does]. I feel like without social media, people would be able to communicate better with each other.”
While we hope our teenage boys grow out of this current “alpha male” wave, unfortunately girls will carry the twisted messages of misogyny throughout their lives.
So, what can we do to mitigate the damage? Let’s empower our young women.
1.) We have a responsibility to denounce misogyny when we hear it. If a friend has a habit of making bigoted jokes, it can be difficult to say something. However it’s important to shut down comments of that nature, because otherwise they become normal.
Albert Bandura and other modern psychologists theorize we learn primarily by observing other people. Even if the joke is only a joke, you’re unconsciously teaching yourself misogynistic ideas; and if you’re surrounded by people who spout bigotry frequently, they’re teaching you to have those ideas.
2.) Learning about the issue is essential to acting on it. Reading straight-up feminist theory (a broad category in the first place) is quite daunting, so videos can be more digestible. Khadija Mbowe is a video essayist who explores feminist and otherwise social justice topics surrounding internet culture. Her content is a good starting point for learning about the topics discussed in this article. It’s important that other people’s opinions don’t become one’s only perspective. Reading research and primary sources as well as gaining real experience around that topic is critical to building an informed opinion.
3.) Creating a bright—or at least hopeful—future for our girls should be a priority. While becoming aware of the issues on social media is important, action is critical. One of the easiest ways is petitioning our senators (as of February 2023, the senators of Georgia are Jon Ossof and Raphael Warnock), or representatives. As reproductive rights and the right to exist of transgender girls are questioned, we must push back, because everyone will be directly affected.
Because society may feel like it’s regressing, it’s important to remember how far, how quickly, women’s rights have improved drastically. We’ll keep walking, despite so many wanting to pull us back to where we were before.
Beautiful Skye. I agree what u wrote completely. Keep pushing..Grandma Ruby