You’re toxic, I’m slipping under (the alt-right pipeline)

by Claire Marcellini (’26) and Elsa Ying (’23) | February 3, 2023

Art by Matthew Tran (’23)

In recent years, the term “toxic masculinity” has entered public consciousness. The concept was first introduced by the American Psychological Association’s 2019 Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Boys and Men, wherein they presented their research and conclusion that the stoicism, aggressiveness, and competitiveness associated with traditional masculinity were detrimental.

Men who believe in the ideology of toxic masculinity are often obsessed with the idea of dominance and claim to be “alpha males,” a cultural nickname used to describe the egotistical, obnoxious, insensitive, and misogynistic men that exist all around the world. These so-called “alpha males” attempt to embody the stereotypes of traditional men—being physically strong, dominant, and emotionless—but fall short. Such toxic masculinity harms not only women and gender minorities, but also the men themselves, as it stifles their mental health. Despite this, many public figures have built a platform drenched in toxicity under the guise of making money and becoming successful, all while preying on the insecurities of men—especially preteen and teenage boys.

One prime example is kickboxer and self-proclaimed misogynist Andrew Tate, who gained virality in 2022 not for his kickboxing, but rather for his “advice” videos titled “Tate Speech.” In these videos, he speaks under the pretense of uplifting others despite the stench of toxic masculinity and sexism in his words. Furthermore, though he claims to be a motivational speaker, his idea of “motivation” is using arbitrary labels to demean other men in a pathetic attempt to boost his own ego. Still, some young men somehow find inspiration in Tate’s bigotry, gaining him millions of followers on social media—at least on the platforms where he’s not banned.

Andrew Tate epitomizes the insecurities and need for constant ego-stroking that drive self-identified “alpha males,” with his desperate attempts to stay relevant through controversial and obnoxious comments online. In fact, Tate, a thirty-six-year-old man, recently posted on Twitter an unprompted boast about his thirty-three cars and directly asked climate activist Greta Thunberg, “Please provide your email address so I can send a complete list of my car collection and their respective enormous emissions.” Intended to insult the twenty-year-old climate activist, Tate’s inflammatory tweet unsurprisingly backfired, as Thunberg’s response became the fourth most-liked tweet of all time. This exchange also drew increased attention and media coverage to Tate’s arrest a day later on charges of human trafficking, rape, and organized crime.

Tate’s self-inflicted humiliation only proves the harms of subscribing to a mindset of toxic masculinity. While he may have once again achieved virality, it is highly doubtful that millions of people laughing at him behind their screens and countless news articles on his arrest was the type of attention he sought. Still, his inability to mind his own business or take what he dishes out is typical of “alpha males” who believe they deserve the reverence and rapt attention of everyone around them and are unable to accept any criticism.

Even when the American Psychological Association published their guidelines in 2019, the research-backed content was met with vitriol and outrage. Rather than stopping to read the study and understand its goal of helping boys and men live happier and healthier lives—after countless studies proved that men have higher suicide rates and that more men have cardiovascular diseases—several right-wing figures and publications immediately condemned the new guidelines as an unfair, biased attack on traditional masculinity.

This victim mentality isn’t unique; many boys and men alike view social progress achieved by women and other minorities as a threat to their own social status, thus internalizing the belief that the success of marginalized groups must harm the dominant group. Likewise, young boys often feel like they don’t measure up to the societal standards of masculinity—such as those that Tate promotes—and fall prey to online pipelines that lead them to figures like Tate. What might start as overused sexist jokes (think “go make me a sandwich”) can and often will lead to more and more extreme “humor” (using slurs and offensive stereotypes) at the expense of women and other minorities. This so-called “dark humor” can start in the most unassuming of content, but as social media algorithms increasingly improve at catering content to individual users, boys and men alike can find themselves trapped in an endless sea of bigoted content online.

Unfortunately, these boys and men never seem to realize that bringing down others only feeds into the same cycle of toxic masculinity that actively harms them. Being an “alpha male” will never allow them to gain respect; rather, it sets themselves up for humiliation (i.e. Andrew Tate picking a public fight with someone a little over half his age and then losing). Furthermore, alpha males only perpetuate and promote the stereotypes and expectations that place so much pressure on themselves and other men.

Through bigoted takes, Andrew Tate promotes a route to faux confidence that brings down other people—not just marginalized communities but also men whom he deems “unworthy.” Contrary to Tate’s beliefs, there are far more genuine ways to be secure in one’s identity and masculinity than boasting about a car collection. For example, teenage and preteen boys can find a sense of accomplishment and pride through actual achievements in sports, academics, or extracurricular activities—all without losing sight of the importance of compassion, respect, and empathy.

Categories: Opinions

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