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Tuesday 21 March 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Alexandru Dobre Andrew Tate, left, and his brother Tristan, leave after appearing at the Court of Appeal, in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Jan.10, 2023. The divisive social media personality Andrew Tate arrived at a court in Romania in handcuffs on Tuesday morning to appeal a judge's earlier decision to extend his arrest period from 24 hours to 30 days on charges of being part of an organized crime group, human trafficking and rape.
Therapist How do we challenge toxic masculinity and its appeal to impressionable young men?
Geoffrey McCarthy looks at the Andrew Tate case and the troubling message it brings.

LAST UPDATE | Jan 22nd 2023, 3:00 PM

TOXIC MASCULINITY is not a new idea or concept, the story of Narcissus dates to Greek philosophy, the notion of being so self-centred or self-absorbed that other people are just to be used for one’s own gratification is a classic tale. This is where the terminology of the narcissistic personality type comes from.

Kacael et al. describe it well in a 2017 study in a behavioural medical journal: “Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a psychological disorder characterised by a persistent pattern of grandiosity, fantasies of unlimited power or importance, and the need for admiration or special treatment.”

Social media platforms are becoming increasingly populated by individuals with toxic masculine views or narcissistic ideologies.

The Tate problem

By now, most of us will be familiar with the name Andrew Tate – the social media ‘influencer’ currently in custody in Romania. The British national and his brother Tristan were detained in late December and face charges in relation to human trafficking, rape and organised crime. Charges they deny.

If we look at Tate, he has a kind of cult following now, he has millions of followers on Twitter, but is banned from Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok and YouTube.

This can sometimes be a badge of honour for some, being a bad boy can make it more appealing to some followers. The notion of a rebel without a cause is not a new one.

His narrative however is still influencing many young impressionable boys online, with his lifestyle, persona and style appearing attractive to lots of men and boys.

To a toxic male and a classic overt narcissist, generating wealth with a persona on this corner of the internet (known as the ‘manosphere’) is a draw. A collection of men’s sites and blogs, the manosphere presents an enticing alternate reality where empathy for others is a no-no and women are viewed as property. Underlying its hypermasculinity and misogyny is the fantasy of a lavish and wealthy lifestyle – the message being that wealth, power, and prestige are rewarded by a sense of entitlement.

Impressionable minds

Unfortunately, many young people aspire to this ideal and lifestyle, they see meaning and purpose in this, to be rich and famous is somehow a sign of absolute success. I would argue however it is what you do with your wealth that defines you. What values do you hold, do you have any empathy or compassion for others?

Young people today covet social media’s power and influence, no matter how fake or false it may seem to those who remember a time when it didn’t exist. It is in essence their world. I am not wishing to cause hysteria so let me temper this by saying that there is an antidote to toxic masculinity. Instilling good values in our children is vitally important in this instance. The toxic masculine needs to grow up a bit and maybe have a little look within…

We need to look to our community for models of healthy masculinity, a good sporting coach, a good dad, a guardian, a good therapist, a teacher etc.

These systems exist already in society and are a good mechanism for giving some healthy challenges to this misogynistic ideology. If we are to push back against the pervasive nature of the smartphone, where Tate and his peers shout louder, faster and easily source a captive audience, then these positive influences must be harnessed in a conscious way.

Psychological makeup

In the classic psychoanalyst’s view, a narcissistic influencer thriving in the manosphere has deep-seated issues surrounding women, perhaps related to their relationship with their mothers. They feel the need to dominate and subjugate others to feel secure. This type of personality often comes from a value system that is completely patriarchal and sees women as ‘less than’ – it is the toxic male view.

Why then if this opinion is so abhorrent and offensive to most balanced people does Andrew Tate have such a large following? Robert Lawson, an associate professor of sociolinguistics at Birmingham City University has a few gems in relation to this. Lawson alludes to masculinity being in a form of crisis with the parameter shifts of the last 30 or so years. “You’re important, you’re needed and your masculinity is needed to fight against all of the changes that are happening in the world. The world is no longer for you or wants to invest in you.”

A lot of what Tate and his peers online are saying in some sense isn’t actually new. It’s a re-articulation of a crisis of masculinity discourse that we see back in the 1970s, back in the 1980s, through the men’s movement led by people like Robert Bly and so on, where there was a sense of reconnecting with your own masculinity as a way of fixing the world. He’s only another entry in a long line of other men who have done something similar.

What to do?

It appears that Tate is now a postmodern voice of some men, but one thing his case has done at least is to highlight the growing threat of the manosphere to the wellbeing of wider society. Now we have to ask, how can we counter this influence on young people?

If you are reading this and have teenage children and are concerned at the narrative that Tate is spinning online, talk to them about this and be open to discussion on this topic, on all of it. While the message of the manosphere is fundamentally loathsome, not all of what everyone says is discountable.

The fact that some men and boys identify with Tate and his peers doesn’t make them abhorrent, it makes them human, it serves some need, or they are searching for a narrative that they can relate to. Find out what that need is and try to understand its causes. Talk through the problems with the messages being sold to young men – ‘is it really ok not to care about others’, challenge the lack of empathy and lack of respect of women, in particular.

If someone in your life is quite vociferous about Tate’s view there may be an indication they are feeling disconnected from society. Open discussion and some personal development are always helpful here. Talk therapy helps. The world needs more healthy male role models, we need more adult views and input on our social media platforms.

If you or someone you know needs to talk to somebody professional, make sure that who you go to is qualified and accredited. has a register of qualified, accredited and experienced counsellors and psychotherapists nationwide.

Geoffrey McCarthy is an accredited psychotherapist and a member of the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP).

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Geoffrey McCarthy
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