Andrew Tate: Why the blind hope of a mother needs urgent help from the underworld

Andrew Tate, sent to trial overnight, is a hugely popular influencer whose extreme misogynistic views are infiltrating classrooms and playgrounds across the world. His impact on classroom behaviour has been reported in popular media and include teachers overhearing jokes about sexual violence and  children writing misogynistic essays. Wescott and Roberts recently published insights on their study of Australian classroom experiences with the manosphere. Their study ‘illuminates the presence of rampant disrespect towards teachers, sexual harassment of teachers and girls, physical intimidation and blatant disregard for women’. 

My own experience with the ‘manosphere’ has been through my own child being called names so horrible it took my breath away. How does a child in primary school even know those words? What does a teacher or parent even say to that? I’ve taught in pretty rough schools in my time: been sworn at, even emailed pornography. But I kinda thought for a long time that ‘feminism had done its job’ by now. We just simply don’t speak to each other this way! Let alone eleven-year-olds. I know that’s naïve but there is nothing quite like the blind hope of a mother.

Maybe it’s because I research social media and education, but I have also had a number of people ask me about ‘what should we say about Andrew Tate’? Many parents and teachers are concerned. He’s not really on my research radar but online democracy is. So I turned my 25 years of Civics and Citizenship teacher skills to the problem of ‘Talking about Andrew Tate and the manosphere’. 

The first thing to get straight is that it is pretty much impossible to ban Andrew Tate, despite what he says. He is hugely popular, even after Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook banned him

Suddenly people began to wonder who this person was, and his name got more clicks. Nearly every news outlet reported bans, bringing him into the sphere of older people who might not have heard of him before. If we are thinking in democratic terms, since 2016 we have seen underground extremist groups collectivise, radicalise and come to dominate political decision-making in the US, the UK and even in Australia. Indeed, reactionary approaches to extremism are more likely to send kids underground. Collectivised underground groups provide a sense of community a lonely teenager will most likely value and fight hard to keep. What we need is to be responsive and use well-worn democracy tools to help shift kids’ thinking. 

The following advice can be applied to any influencer you find in the dark parts of the Internet. All you have to do is remember PLUTO. Yes, PLUTO the mythical god of the underworld and the poor, hard-done-by dwarf planet. Yes, it’s a planet again.

PLUTO stands for: Partnership, Listening, Understanding, Talk with purpose, and be Organised.


When speaking to kids about someone like Andrew Tate you must be a partner in the conversation. Do not pretend that you know more than the kids. You don’t. You will never catch up to them, especially if they have been down the rabbit hole for a while. Besides, Andrew Tate has already given them all the comebacks. 

What you do need to know about is what it means to be a part of a fair and just society, what the laws are about hate speech and defamation, and what it means to be an active and informed citizen. You can use these tools to speak with the kids about whether misogyny progresses a good society or sends it backwards.


Listen. Don’t judge the words that come out of their mouths. Andrew Tate has given language that does not necessarily match their development. Ask them to think deeply about the meaning of the words they are using and how that might make others feel. How that makes them look to others. Do some detective work. Ask them what the evidence is that they would use those words to describe another person. Let them know that freedom of speech only applies when it’s true.


The goal is to achieve a collective understanding of what is going on with your classroom or family when a member is listening to Andrew Tate. How is that affecting the dynamic? 

All of these conversations need to happen with a trusted adult. A school inviting ‘an expert’ to speak about the manosphere on assembly is only going to alienate people and probably bring in parental complaints. You don’t want strangers talking to them about Andrew Tate. The same thing goes for a package bought and implemented in a life skills lesson. A package will speak at the young people, not with them. There needs to be a skilled classroom teacher for those kids. Someone who has built a relationship of trust who can work in partnership with the kids, not tell them what to do. 

Talk with purpose

Too often conversations about misogyny happen on the fly. Maybe driving in the car or when it comes up in class. When speaking to kids who have potentially been radicalized, these occasions are not the time to try and shift thinking. When, where and with whom the conversation occurs needs to be well planned. It also needs to have a purpose. Be well designed in its resourcing and intention. Reactionary conversations are most likely going to be ‘won’ by someone who the manosphere has already given all the answers to. 

Be Organised

You, as the teacher (or parent) need to demonstrate a rigorous decision-making process. You need to educate yourself about what it means to live in a fair and just liberal democracy. The discipline area in the Australian curriculum most suited to these conversations is Humanities and Social Sciences, specifically the Civics and Citizenship strand. This, often overlooked, cousin of History and Geography has all the tools needed for talking about how misogynistic views affect our democracy and ultimately society. Civics and Citizenship, as a part of the HaSS suit has purposeful, structured inquiry embedded in its pedagogy and has since Socrates. It also has decades of resourcing about what it means to be an active and informed citizen. 

So, remember PLUTO when you need to talk about Andrew Tate, or any of the people and ideas in the dark, reactionary, radicalizing areas of the Internet. PLUTO: Partnership, Listening, Understanding, Talk with purpose, be Organised.

This is an extrapolation of a lightning talk I gave on a panel ‘Talking about Andrew Tate and the manosphere with boys and young men’ at the Centre for Justice research group at QUT. You can find a recording of all the speakers here. The licence for the header image is to be found here.

Dr Naomi Barnes is a senior lecturer at QUT and is interested in how crisis influences education politics, specifically the effect of moral panics. She also considers how the curriculum relates to nationalism, identity, and democracy. Naomi lectures future teachers in Modern History, Civics and Citizenship and Writing Studies. She has worked for Education Queensland as a Senior Writer and has worked as a Secondary Humanities and Social Science teacher in the government, Catholic and Independent schooling sectors.

Do elite private boys’ school alumni have justice politics?

Featured Symposium at AARE 2021: Elite private boys’ schooling, feminism and gender justice: reimagining research in a post #me too world

On November 30 2021, while many of us were in paper sessions at the annual AARE conference, the findings of a review of workplace culture in parliament house were released. The review, led by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, was sparked by rape allegations made earlier this year by Brittany Higgins. The findings indicated that one in three people working in federal parliament has experienced some kind of sexual harassment there (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2021). What is also true is that a large number of MPs in the current parliament attended boys’ only schools, and recent revelations about the conduct of some boys in high fee-paying private boys’ schools have shone a negative light on them.

In September 2020, a year 12 muck-up day challenge at Sydney’s Shore school was made public which included such challenges as “spit on a homeless man”, “deck a stranger”, “sack whack a complete random walking past”, “get with someone below (age) 15”, and “get with an Asian chick”. In February 2021 Ms Chanel Contos, a former student at Kambala – an elite private girls’ school in Sydney – commenced a petition on social media for consent education to be taught earlier. This also attracted many testimonies from young women across the country regarding sexual assault from young men, many of whom attended elite private boys’ schools. 

A spotlight has therefore been focused on private boys’ schools and the male leaders they produce. All but two of Australia’s post war Prime Ministers (Bob Hawke and Julia Gillard) attended boys’ only schools, as did many men in the current parliamentary cabinet. Many of the men who attend boys’ only schools will come to occupy positions of significant privilege and power. There are crucial questions to be asked about the gender, class and race lessons being learnt by the young men attending such schools, and the way these travel with them as they come to occupy positions of influence in post-school life. Emeritus Professor Jane Kenway calls this the ‘misogyny pipeline’.

Published research shows us that such schools can be environments that are toxic for women teachers (Higham, 2018; Variyan, 2021) and indicates the sense of entitlement that can be fostered in such schools (Gaztambide-Fernández, Cairns & Desai, 2013). However it also indicates they are institutions that frequently engage in practices that are ostensibly about improving society and ameliorating justice (Kenway & Fahey, 2015). Indeed, how might these schools and their current and former students contribute to social justice rather than reproduce virulent forms of misogyny, classism and racism?

In response to such questions, AARE featured the research symposium Elite private boys’ schooling, feminism and gender justice: reimagining research in a post #me too world, at its annual conference. The symposium involved Drs Claire Charles and Lucinda McKnight, and Professor Amanda Keddie (Deakin University); Dr George Variyan (Monash University); Emeritus Professor Jane Kenway (Melbourne University); Professor Adam Howard (Colby College, USA), and Leanne Higham (LaTrobe University).

The symposium identified a range of challenges and opportunities for understanding questions of gender, class and race in elite private boys’ education both in Australia and the USA. A particular challenge identified was the ‘rules of entitlement’ that such schools implicitly teach their boys (Kenway). One such rule is that boys must know how to stay on top of all the hierarchies that matter. Given how strongly invested such schools, and their clients, are in hierarchies it was asked is it even possible to challenge this rule?

A key theme, in line with the conference title, was how we might re-imagine research in politically charged spaces, and in particular in/with elite private school boys and such schools’ alumni. Access to elite schooling for the purposes of research can be difficult. The symposium explored some different approaches to gaining insight into a culture where ‘what is part of the family stays with the family’. The schools were likened to a ‘secret brotherhood’ (Howard) where unsavoury are kept under a code of silence, although can sometimes be revealed to ‘insider’ researchers such as men who also attended elite boys’ schools, or by alumni who actively take up a more progressive justice politics. As part of re-imagining research in this space, the symposium also explored how researchers need to acknowledge their own positioning and investments (Charles, McKnight & Variyan).

A second theme was around how the schools themselves typically respond to revelations about their misogynistic cultures when they hit the media. Their crisis management techniques were identified. For example, they often respond by suggesting that such events are the result of a few ‘bad apples’ and are not representative of the broader culture or values of the school. A further strategy was their ‘dignified determination’ to address the issues. These defensive responses were described as a form of ‘misogyny masking’ (Kenway).

A key question, therefore, is how research, and the schools themselves, might address these problems. In particular, how research and teaching in elite private boys’ schools might seek to involve boys and men in working toward social justice. It is well established in research that involving men and boys in feminist projects can be a challenge yet one that is necessary if we are to change the status quo (Messner, Greenberg & Peretz, 2015). The symposium explored the discomfort and emotional intensities that boys and men often experience when they are invited to reflect on their complicity in perpetuating gender injustice (Keddie). It found that while such discomfort can be difficult, it is a necessary part of gender transformative work because you are dealing with personal violation. Such discomfort and emotions can be channelled in productive was for gender justice (Keddie). The role of researchers’ own relationships and emotions with regard to these schools was also explored (Charles, McKnight & Variyan).

In summary, recommendations arising from the symposium include the following:

·       That researchers continue to work with alumni from these schools to identify and further understand the factors that might assist some men to develop progressive justice politics both at school and later in life;

·       That further research is conducted into what may make elite private boys’ schools different from other elite schools that are co-educational or girls’ only schools, when it comes to addressing the problems outlined above;

·       That research and pedagogy continue to engage boys in working toward gender justice – including boys attending elite private boys’ schools.

Dr Claire Charles is a senior lecturer in the School of Education at Deakin University. Her research advances understanding of the justice politics of privileged young people in an unfair world.

Dr Charles pulled together this overview of research, including her own, presented at AARE201. The other authors are: Dr Lucinda McKnight is a senior lecturer in pedagogy and curriculum at Deakin University. She conducts award-winning research into curriculum design’s role in teacher identity, autonomy and professionalism, especially in English.  Dr George Variyan is a lecturer in Master of Educational Leadership in the Faculty of Education at Monash University. George’s engagement in research is based on a critically orientated sociology, which explores human agency in the relationship between education and society. Amanda Keddie is a Professor of Education at Deakin University. She leads the program: Children, Young People and their Communities within the REDI (Research for Educational Impact) Centre. Her research interests and publications are in the broad field of social justice and schooling. Professor Jane Kenway is an elected Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences; Australia, Emeritus Professor at Monash University and Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne. Her research expertise is in educational sociology.  Adam Howard, Ed.D., is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Education and Chair of Education Program at Colby College, USA. Professor Howard’s research explores social class issues in education with a particular focus on privilege and elite education. Leanne Higham is a Lecturer in the School of Education at La Trobe University. A former secondary teacher, she is interested in the everyday practices of schooling and how these increase and enhance the capacities of those within schools, and/or limit and constrain them.