2022 has been a wild ride and men have certainly played their part in the highs and lows. The Cut published an article that aggregated many of the lowest moments for men this year and it makes for painful reading. One of the villains in this parliament of monsters is of course Andrew Tate, now arrested after a spectacular run-in with Greta Thunberg (although not as a direct result). On the surface, it was a hilarious and gratifying moment, but the feminist internet responded quickly with some important and incisive commentary.
The joke is of course that a big macho man, muscular and self-confident had his bubble burst by a young woman. In Andrew Tate's narrative of a self-confident, sexually successful man he exploits many, if not all of the codes of traditional, patriarchal masculinity. In amongst the cigars and the fast cars that he leverages to perform his gender it is implicit in that he has a large penis. We all recognise the tropes that he uses to build his brand of masculinity and it was an easy target for Greta.
How does this humour figure in our fight against patriarchy? Sophia Smith Galer points out that this joke is based on a patriarchal narrative that connects men’s worth with the size of their penis and their perceived sexual prowess. In my work in schools with boys between 12-18 one of the most common questions we get when discussing sex and relationships is about penis size and performance. It is a huge anxiety for many men and boys and as Sophia points out it is these people that we should be reaching with good information about their bodies and their experience of sex.
Feminism has in the past been pitted against men, but we know that our liberation must be collective. That means bringing men in so they can be free of the pressures of patriarchy too. Pressures that facilitate violence and unhealthy relationships with themselves and others. I was personally pleased to see Andrew Tate lampooned, and later arrested, but I know that men more widely need space to be held so that they can heal from these norms. I also know a carceral system does not provide a complete answer to this problem and that his arrest is unlikely to undo the damage done to the women he has harmed and the boys and young men around the world he has influenced.
I'll leave you with Sophia Galer Smith's thoughts on the matter.