‘Miss, what do you think of Andrew Tate?’: The problem of widespread misogyny and sexism in Australian classrooms 

Photo by Felicia Buitenwerf on Unsplash

It could be easy to dismiss Andrew Tate as a bit of a joke. His content mostly features exaggerated and performative masculinity, expensive, luxury cars, bragging about sexual encounters with women and a good dose of neoliberal-style self-motivation thrown into the mix for good measure. 

Couple this with charges against him for human trafficking, rape and forming an organised crime group in Romania, and his impending extradition to the UK on charges of sexual aggression, and it would be safe to assume that any credibility or influence he might claim to have could be swiftly disregarded.

And yet, our research, with colleagues Professor Steven Roberts and Xuenan Zhao, into the influence of Andrew Tate’s content on boys’ behaviours and attitudes to women in Australian schools has found that Tate’s content is having a tangible effect on women’s experiences in the classroom. 

Spurred by news reports emerging from the UK in early 2023, we set out to examine if the infiltration of Tate’s ideology across schools in the UK was also occurring here in Australia. After putting a call-out on social media asking women to express their interest in an interview with us, we were inundated with women wanting to tell their stories. 

As we began the interview process, we realised we were hearing the same story, the same experiences and encounters, replicated in schools across sectors, across contexts in all states of Australia. 

‘Miss, what do you think of Andrew Tate?’ 

The women we spoke to broadly reported the weaponisation of Tate, his ideology and key tropes in their classrooms. The most summoned Tate talking points are clear provocations asking women to reveal their position on Tate’s diatribes on women’s rights to drive, the gender wage gap, gender quotas and other anti-feminist concerns. 

Women discussed the ways in which Tate is invoked by students as an incitement—not as an object of interest and curiosity—and how they feel compelled in front of the girls present in their classes to demonstrate careful and tactful defence of themselves and other women. 

Women also reported that boys have adopted the common manfluencer positionality as victims of feminist progress and post-#metoo curtailment of their freedom and power. Teachers explained that some of their students now view women as an oppressive, dominant class, from whom men must regain power and supremacy.

Across the board, women report that boys’ behaviour has become more pervasive, perverse, targeted and brazen. While teachers are adept in navigating controversial topics that arise in classroom discussions, they reported feeling emotionally and psychologically affected by constantly defending themselves against Tate’s ideology. 

Watch | Malevolent Influence: Schools and the Shadow of Andrew Tate

Hear journalist and author Anna Krien, and feminist researcher Dr Stephanie Wescott discuss sexism and the impact of ‘manfluencers’ on school culture, moderated by Mary Crooks AO (Executive Director, Victorian Women’s Trust).


Rising rates of sexism and sexual harassment 

Although sexual harassment has long been a fixture of school environments, women in our study reported a recent sharp increase in instances and boldness of both sexism and sexual harassment in their schools and classrooms. Sexual moaning noises, comments about their bodies and other lewd, suggestive comments were reported by women in our study. One teacher observed that she can recognise Tate’s influence in the way she hears the boys at her school talk about girls. 

A particularly disturbing incident involved a student spitting in his teacher’s water bottle, in what she described as an act of ‘gendered anger’ towards her. 

Girls are also reporting experiencing these behaviours themselves to their teachers, disclosing disturbing comments, gestures, and slurs. Women teachers are concerned about a sense of resignation among the girls in their classes; that some seem to have come to accept that this behaviour from boys is inevitable and unfixable. 

There are obvious implications here for women and girls’ safety in their workplaces and schooling environments, as well as infringements on girls’ right to receive an education in classrooms free of sexism and harassment. Despite the existence of curriculum intended as intervention into gendered violence, such as Respectful Relationships, as well as the government’s announcement of a $3.5 million trial into combatting the influence of misogynist influencers, there has so far been little tangible improvement in the experience of women and girls in schools. 

Responses from school leaders 

Despite the seriousness of the behaviour and incidents reported by women in our study, strong responses from school leaders were observed only in a minority of cases. 

In some cases, women’s complaints were responded to with strategies that constitute victim-blaming, including examples where blame was assigned to women’s apparent weaknesses in classroom behaviour management.  

Others reported that there were some supportive colleagues, leaders and responses in their schools, including use of strategies such as addressing year level-wide cohorts, letters home to parents with advice about how to approach Andrew Tate’s content, and inviting guest speakers or programs to run in the schools. However, the evidence on the effectiveness of these approaches is mixed

Another key issue is a resistance to naming what women and girls are experiencing with accurate language, instead softening or downplaying the seriousness of boys’ behaviour by using terms such as ‘disrespect.’ Most schools are unable to record ‘sexism’ or ‘sexual harassment’ as unique behaviour incidents, and therefore we lack comprehensive data on frequency and scope across the country. 

What is really needed, is a comprehensive measurement of incidents of sexism and sexual harassment in schools on a nation-wide scale, across all contexts and sectors, so that we can get a clear understanding of the problem.

What happens next? 

We are calling first for schools to recognise and acknowledge the experiences of women and the effects of ‘manfluencer’ figures in classrooms. While there are many strategies in place across schools, these need to be more long-term and comprehensive, taking a critical and transformative approach to gender relations in school contexts. 

Further, we are hoping to see more research in this area, particularly in relation to manfluencer culture in Australian schools, and the effects on boys’ relationships with girls and women. 

Finally, there needs to be serious government investment in strategies combatting the influence of extremist online figures, including manfluencers such as Andrew Tate who spruik anti-women and anti-feminist messages. While the recent $3.5 million funding announcement from the federal government is an important acknowledgement of this issue, this amount is meagre when considered alongside the scope of the problem of violence against women in this country. 



Dr Stephanie Wescott is a feminist researcher and lecturer in humanities and social sciences in the Faculty of Education’s School of Education, Culture and Society. Using a feminist lens, her research examines how education practice and policy intersects with and is influenced by current socio-political conditions, and she is particularly interested in post-truth and its relationship to knowledge and expertise in education.




Sexism at School: Educator Survey