“Feminism is a chore to us”: School in the era of Andrew Tate

two larger than life children hold a jump rope while other schoolchildren jump over it
School in the era of Andrew TateArtwork: Jaime Lee//Hearst Owned

Rape jokes. Violent threats. Sharing of intimate photos. Misogyny is running rife in British schools, say teachers, with social media, the ever-expanding manosphere and anti-feminist influencers having a knock-on effect – for students and educators alike, of all ages.

New research from Vodafone found 70% of teachers report witnessing a rise in sexist language in the classroom over the past year, and one in five parents say they've also noticed a gradual change in the language their sons use to talk about women and girls.

At the same time, a stark ideological gap between the sexes is emerging globally, according to a Financial Times analysis, with the UK seeing a 25-percentage point gap between men and women's political stances, with women becoming more liberal and men growing more conservative in their viewpoints.

Research from Ipsos and King’s College London also suggests one in five UK men aged 16 to 29 hold a favourable view of Andrew Tate, the self-proclaimed "king of toxic masculinity" who is awaiting trial in Romania on charges of human trafficking and rape, though he denies the allegations against him. One in six young men also now say feminism has done more harm than good (compared to one in eleven young women).

While these opinions thankfully aren’t held by the majority of young people, the overall picture is still one of growing division. This sentiment is evident to students, teachers, and charities, who are all seeing the repercussions of this divide playing out in schools, colleges, and universities.

So, what’s it really like going to school in the era of Andrew Tate? And how do we close the divide? We asked 12 students and teachers about their experiences…

"We’ve had issues with students making jokes about rape"

Sophie*, a secondary school teacher from South Wales

"In my school, we’ve had issues with boys who are 14 and 15 making jokes about rape, sexual assault, and violence towards women. There’s a particular group that shared a sexual image of a girl in the school, who’d already been spoken to multiple times. As part of their ‘punishment’ they were then sent to a local football club to try to help improve their views of women. They had time off school and when they came back they were saying the exact same things. It was like they’d been rewarded. What the hell kind of a message is that sending?"

"Men are struggling with feelings of vulnerability"

Tomas*, a 21-year-old student from London

"The notion that you should get a good job, make a lot of money and therefore be someone who can provide is idolised by society. Young men get this idea that we have to be strong and we can’t share everything we’re experiencing with everyone. It means some men struggle with feelings of vulnerability and fail to build close relationships."

back view of african american student raising her arm to answer a question during lecture in the classroom
Drazen Zigic

"Feminism is a chore to us"

Arushi, a 20-year-old medical student based in London

"At my med school, we are encouraged to talk about gender equality. While this freedom is needed and appreciated, it has shown me quite alarming views are held by my peers. Every time I talk about intersectionality and the way feminism falls behind in some aspects, I’m reminded that most people are not ready for this conversation. They’re too stuck on ‘do we need feminism’ to even get to making feminism more inclusive.

"I had a conversation with a few of my friends recently about how we discovered feminism in our pre teens, and how back then it made us feel like we had a second shot at life and we were hopeful about our place in the world. Now, in our twenties, feminism is a chore to us.

"We’re so tired, every day it feels like we’re starting on square one. It’s starting to feel like an unending battle - but it’s not a battle we’re unwilling to fight in."

"A boy in my class threatened to stab a girl"

Caspar*, a primary school teacher in Sussex

"I worry that some children are being raised largely by the internet, which is an increasingly toxic place. Last year, an 8-year-old boy in my class was violent towards girls on a few occasions, including writing a note threatening to stab one. His behaviour would always spike during the times his father was away for work. The saddest part was his mother’s reaction when she came into school to talk about it with the girl's family. She broke down in tears and was so apologetic, you could tell she was horrified. It must be very hard as a mother to consider the child you’re raising may have problems with women.

"As a teacher, you can talk about actions having consequences until you’re blue in the face, but our society seems to increasingly reward pig-headed men who fail upwards. That said, that boy was one in a class of 25 and most of the other boys were lovely and caring. They’d play football with the girls, happily made posters on gender stereotypes and felt comfortable crying without feeling emasculated."

schoolgirls walking hand in hand at school isle
Klaus Vedfelt

"It is getting harder for women again"

Alaw, a 21-year-old student from North Wales

"I feel like in our current climate the world is getting harder for women again. I’m a queer woman, I’m pansexual, and I see a lot of things said and done against people who are transgender.

"One of my close friends got attacked about a month ago. She was just walking down the street with her girlfriend in Manchester. It’s crazy to me. I feel like we’re going back in time. Going down that road of people being killed for being themselves."

"Students have been indoctrinated into disrespecting women"

Amy*, a teacher in West London

"Many students don't agree with feminism and hold Andrew Tate as a role model, although the Tate references have improved since he’s been in prison as he hasn't been on their phones as much. At one point when Tate was in the media every day there were multiple incidents of boys asking female teachers what ‘colour is their Bugatti’ [a clapback in response to criticism implying ‘I’m superior to you’]. The real turning point was during the pandemic; students were spending more and more time online and on TikTok without supervision and the algorithm funnels them down a very anti-women rabbit hole.

"We address these topics in form time and PSHE lessons, and we have some excellent male teachers who will self-identify as feminists. They are invaluable and have very frank conversations with boys who are showing misogynistic opinions."

"A lot of young people feel there isn't much of a future for them"

Henry*, a senior school teacher who works in West London

"A lot of young boys are being left on their own and turning to negative influences to satisfy a need for guidance they're not getting. I do feel this is enhanced by parents who are increasingly [and understandably] having to work longer hours, especially visible in London. I’ve also heard staff say a lot of young people, especially boys, are feeling like there isn't much of a future for them in the world due to economic circumstances, and they feel their own identity will hold them back. These topics need to be handled carefully and boys need to feel they’re allowed to discuss rather than be preached to. Some male students often stay quiet on these topics, meaning the angrier voices drown them out. It's a hard balance; they don't want to get singled out as different amongst their peers."

rear view of middle school students studying in classroom

"The girls are calling it out"

Joe*, a secondary school teacher from the South East

"A lot of boys around 15 to 16 have this ‘lads’ mentality and huddle together at break and lunch. We had one student say something about supporting Andrew Tate, I think his friend outed him but he admitted it when probed. It wasn’t said to me directly, it was handled by another teacher. But it was so disappointing that a nice student would have these gross, diminishing views on women and their concept of relationships. I’m glad the girls in the year are able to express their distaste and be openly against it. At least these boys are also hearing from people their age that behaviour like that isn’t okay."

"We challenge gender stereotypes from a young age"

Katie*, 30, a primary school teacher in York

"My classes are still quite little but their attitudes to gender are addressed from a young age. We do a lot of work on gender-based violence at an age-appropriate level e.g. through the story of a prince who doesn't let the princess run her kingdom how she’d like – so the children are aware of things like controlling relationships, and signs of abuse. We also address gender stereotypes, for example by asking ‘do you think of a girl or a boy when you think of a cleaner?’ Or ‘when you think of a doctor, would you think of a boy or girl?’. Nine times out of ten, children will say the cleaner is a girl and the doctor is a boy. But nine times out of ten we then see these children change their minds."

"Students ask why I’m not married"

Melanie*, a secondary school teacher in Cardiff

"My experience might differ as I work in a very multicultural school, where a lot of children are from backgrounds where, typically, females are seen to be at home cooking and cleaning. They ask me why I'm not still not married at the age of 26, why I don't have a partner and why I work. I have a lot of conversations about that.

"Some of the boys I teach will be like, ‘Who is this girl trying to tell me off? Who does she think she is?’ To be referred to as a girl when you’re 26 and you’re in a position of power is a bit misogynistic. Some boys think I don't have the right to tell them what to do because I’m female.

"A couple of the students in my form have said they don’t think feminism is about being equal anymore - that it is about females having more than males. In lessons where the students study Of Mice and Men, we teach that Curley’s wife is never named and that she is objectified. A lot of the girls will talk about how that’s wrong, she should be her own person and she’s trapped. Then a couple of boys will be like, ‘Rightly so, she is a man’s property’. I think they’re joking."

a group of people sitting in chairs
Tim Macpherson

"Students argue with female members of staff"

Chris*, a secondary school teacher from West London
"Last year we saw misogynistic behaviour from a core group of students. They would argue with any instructions that were given by female members of staff, refusing to follow them and acting in an aggressive manner. They often openly questioned their authority and treated them differently to the male teachers. I noticed these problems more during the last academic year (2022 to 2023), however many female members of staff said they’d noticed a change earlier than this."

"We're doing a massive disservice to our young boys"

Susie McDonald, CEO, of Tender a charity dedicated to preventing domestic abuse and sexual violence

"As a charity, we focus on preventing domestic abuse and sexual violence and because we’re focusing on prevention, we mainly work with children and young people to enable them to build the skills, knowledge and language to be able to articulate what healthy relationships are.

"While the focus has always been on intimate and romantic relationships, the work can and does begin in primary school where children can be looking at friendships. The skills that they can be equipped with at primary school can be used to inform the way that they then choose to have romantic relationships - and you can build on that as they mature into young adults who might be thinking about romance and intimacy in those relationships.

"My ambition would be that every child has a really high-quality relationship education. There is the relationships and sex education curriculum which is quite broad; it’s not really fit for purpose in the way that it is delivered. Often the feedback from the sessions we run in schools is ‘Oh, I thought that most people thought the same as me but it turns out actually people have quite different opinions about what is healthy behaviour and what is unhealthy behaviour’.

"We’re doing a massive disservice to our young boys and men by not looking at how to protect them from the vulnerabilities of being a young boy and man."

*Names have been changed

Where to get help

White Ribbon works with men and boys to end violence against women and girls
Samaritans If you’re struggling with any mental health issues, the free support line is available 24/7 and can be reached at: 116 123
Rape Crisis Specialised, independent and confidential support for women and girls who have experienced any form of sexual violence. Their free helpline can be reached at: 0808 500 2222
UK Feminista Provides training and resources in a bid to end sexism in schools, as well as working with survivors

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