If you have a young man in your life, you’ve probably heard of Andrew Tate. This former kickboxing world champion likes to talk about entrepreneurship and financial autonomy on social networks. So far, no problem. The problem is that he makes a very pernicious speech towards women (he has also already made racist and homophobic remarks). A speech straight out of the Stone Age like “women’s place is in the home”, “women should not drive”, etc. Oh yes, he is also accused of human trafficking and rape…
However, this 36-year-old influencer enjoys immense popularity among young people.
If you have not yet read the report by my colleague Léa Carrier published on Sunday in Context, I invite you to do so. She tells the story of a young girl who has been completely distraught since her little brother was indoctrinated by Tate’s sexist and misogynistic remarks. The report clearly shows the extent to which young people’s loved ones and teachers feel overwhelmed by the phenomenon of masculinist influencers who have millions of subscribers on TikTok.
The phenomenon of masculinists is not new in Quebec. 20 years ago, it was the Fathers for Justice that made the headlines. This movement of separated fathers, who considered themselves unfairly treated by the courts because custody of their child had been entrusted to the mother, had directed their resentment against the feminists whom they had renamed “feminazis”.
In hindsight, this movement seems almost harmless to me.
The masculinist discourse of the 2020s is otherwise worrying.
The fact that it is spread by social networks makes it even more insidious and difficult to combat. As a friend, mother of two boys, told me, it’s like a Trojan horse entering schools and homes.
I understand the dismay of parents and teachers.
What do you do when your beloved son, the one you educated according to principles of equality and respect, starts telling you that women’s place is in the kitchen? And he uses terms like “females” to talk about girls?
There is reason to worry.
The worst thing we can do is ignore this phenomenon or minimize it.
However, I have the impression that we do not take the harmful influence of this movement seriously enough. We cannot simply shrug our shoulders and say “boys will be boys” as we have done, among others, in the world of junior hockey. We must react.
If you doubt the relevance of tackling this social problem, I draw your attention to a recent survey by the Léger firm which informs us that 20% of respondents aged 18 to 34 believe that feminism is “a strategy to enable women to control society. This is to misunderstand the objective of feminism, a movement whose primary objective is equality between men and women. And this confirms to us that there is a lot of educational work to be done.
“Young people just want to talk”
I spoke about it with the author and director Léa Clermont-Dion who is, by far, the person best placed to dissect this phenomenon: she has one foot in theory (her doctoral thesis focused on anti-feminist discourses online in Quebec) and a foot in practice (his film I salute you bitch led her to discuss sexual violence with thousands of young people across Quebec).
Léa Clermont-Dion is also a researcher at the Center for the Study of Learning and Performance at Concordia University, which creates educational activities on sensitive topics intended for future teachers and young people.
She knows very well the speeches given by Andrew Tate and his ilk. According to her, we must address these speeches head-on while avoiding a moralizing or blaming tone. “Young people just want to talk,” she assures me.
But be careful, it is not with disembodied training that we will get there.
We need to reach young people so that they feel concerned. When I visit schools and I present testimonies of people broken by violence, it touches them.
Léa Clermont-Dion, author, director and researcher
Léa Clermont-Dion puts her finger on something very important: the success of masculinist influencers is partly explained by the fact that they address the emotions of young men. “They are anxious, they are looking for their place in society. These influencers present themselves as life coaches and they know how to find the words to touch their audience. »
It is not by silencing the followers of Andrew Tate, by removing them from the classroom or by turning our gaze in the other direction that we will succeed in deconstructing the anti-women discourse carried by this masculinist movement.
It’s by opening the dialogue.
I know that the timing is bad on the eve of an indefinite general strike, but school remains, in my opinion, the best place to address these questions and prevent slippage. “It goes so quickly, parents often feel overwhelmed,” agrees Léa Clermont-Dion. And they are not always in the best position to talk with their young person about representations in porn, for example. On the other hand, teachers write to us to tell us that they lack the resources to address these questions. »
Drawing on her experience and observations, Léa Clermont-Dion believes that these questions must be addressed from an early age.
Once in high school, the damage is already done. You have to start working with children from daycare, because there is something in all of this that also relates to the lack of ability to manage your emotions and aggression.
Léa Clermont-Dion, author, director and researcher
The researcher is right. Boys must be taught to identify their emotions and welcome them. In Denmark, she reminds me, since the implementation in 2007 of a program to teach empathy and kindness to toddlers and children, cases of bullying have decreased by 16%. .
Britain is also inspiring with its programs to deconstruct sexist stereotypes and masculinist discourses.
I share the opinion of Léa Clermont-Dion who calls for political will to recognize the problem and tackle it head on. If we do not intervene immediately, if we do not offer a counterbalance to the pernicious comments of influencers like Andrew Tate, we risk losing many young men. And find yourself with even more serious problems on your hands.