Schools under siege: ‘Manfluencer’ culture fuelling toxic masculinity

By Our Reporter
The influence of Tate is also evident in the rise of sexual harassment and misogynistic behaviour towards women and girls in schools, as boys absorb and emulate his regressive views on masculinity

Recent research from Monash University sheds light on a troubling trend in Australian schools—the rise of ‘manfluencer’ culture, spearheaded by figures like Andrew Tate, and its impact on fostering toxic masculinity among boys. The study, led by Dr Stephanie Wescott and Professor Steven Roberts from the Faculty of Education, reveals a disturbing pattern of sexual harassment, sexism, and misogyny that is increasingly prevalent in classroom settings.

The research is timely, coming on the heels of the Federal Government’s announcement last October of a three-year trial project aimed at curbing toxic masculinity on social media. This study delves into the experiences of 30 women teachers across both public and private schools in Australia, highlighting how the pervasive online presence of Tate, a self-proclaimed misogynist, is influencing boys’ behaviours towards their female teachers and peers.

Dr Wescott’s findings are alarming. She notes a resurgence of male supremacy in classrooms, with boys exhibiting overt authority and dominance over women teachers, harking back to traditional patriarchal norms. The influence of Tate is also evident in the rise of sexual harassment and misogynistic behaviour towards women and girls in schools, as boys absorb and emulate his regressive views on masculinity.

Teachers have observed a shift in boys’ behaviour, coinciding with the return to face-to-face schooling post-COVID lockdowns and the growing popularity of Tate. Some boys are using Tate’s rhetoric to challenge and mock the gender power dynamics highlighted by the #metoo movement, suggesting that women are now unfairly advantaged.

The impact of these attitudes is profound, affecting the work environment for women teachers. Dr Wescott highlights that some teachers are facing combative interactions that challenge their gender and their views on Tate, leading to a sense that schools are no longer safe places for women educators.

Serina McDuff, Acting CEO of Respect Victoria, emphasizes the importance of understanding the influences attracting young men and the need for ongoing education on respectful relationships to prevent gendered violence. She also stresses the need for support for teachers and school staff in navigating these conversations and ensuring the safety and respect of women and girls in classrooms.

Professor Roberts calls for open conversations in schools to allow women to share their experiences and discuss the impact of ‘manfluencer’ culture on boys’ identities and relationships. He suggests that current school-level responses, often limited to one-off sessions or punitive talks, are insufficient to address the distress experienced by teachers. Instead, a more comprehensive approach is needed, including ongoing dialogue and proportionate measures.

The paper concludes with a call for school leadership to address the impact of ‘manfluencer’ culture, urging school communities and scholars to focus on the implications of responses to this phenomenon in educational settings. It highlights the need to consider the broader impact on young men’s relationships with women and girls, their identities, and their understanding of power and social advantage.

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