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

The Victorian Women’s Trust proudly presented an expert discussion on the rise of sexism and misogyny in Australian schools, on Wed 1 May 2024. 

Drawing on research from Monash University, our panel illustrated the challenges teachers are forced to regularly grapple with — classrooms disrupted with anti-women rhetoric; sexist attitudes and behaviour from students strongly influenced by figures like Andrew Tate; and a lack of real support for educators in crisis. For some, the situation has become dire, leading female teachers to leave the profession altogether.

So how can we combat sexism and misogyny in our schools? Is it possible to shift focus from toxic masculinity to healthy masculinity?


  • Anna Krien is an award winning journalist and author of Night Games: Sex, Power & Sport
  • 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, Monash University
  • Moderator: Mary Crooks AO, Executive Director of the Victorian Women’s Trust


Note: Transcript is provided for reference only, and has been edited for clarity. Please confirm accuracy before quoting.


Mary Crooks AO: Hello, everyone, and welcome to this webinar, Malevolent Influence. Welcome to you all. Can I begin by acknowledging Country — we work here at the Victorian Women’s Trust on Wurundjeri land. We have a partnership in our office of some 3 decades now with Koori Women Mean Business. And over that 3 decades we have learnt an enormous amount from one another. We have deep respect for one another.

We think this kind of partnership between Indigenous and non-Indigenous organisations has to be the way of the future.

Mary Crooks AO: With that in mind, I want to pay our respects to the original inhabitants of our country to the custodians of this land who’ve looked after the the waters and the land and the air, and we acknowledge the rich foundations of those cultures going back over 2,000 generations. We pay our respects to Elders, past and present.

Mary Crooks AO: What we want to do in this webinar today, we want to shine a light on a contemporary challenge in our classrooms. In Australia, on the what I might describe as the sexist radicalisation of significant numbers of boys going on each day in our in our classrooms, and we want to shine a light on the sort of shadowy influence of people like Andrew Tate. We also want, however, to look at the kinds of things that could be done to meet this challenge, that is, is there in front of us.

Mary Crooks AO: I was actually at a gathering earlier this week up in Northeastern Victoria, and one of the women present spoke about the kind of change that’s underway right now, she said. Think industrial revolution. Think introduction of the Internet. Think AI. Conflate those 3 things, and you have a scale of an issue and a challenge that we just haven’t had to confront before.

Mary Crooks AO: It’s terribly hard even to get ahead of that, let alone to understand it and to deal with it. So I’m hoping that today we we can generate a little bit of insight. We have 2 fabulous panelists with us today.

We’ve got Anna Krien, author, journalist, essayist, and poet and owner of a 7 month old Kelpie Border Collie up just to keep her busy. Anna wrote a brilliant book called Night Games: Sex Power and Sport, which I would really recommend if you haven’t read it. She also wrote in March this year an article in The Monthly called The Tate Race, which I hope we will put on the chat for you to follow up and read. These are must reads, in my view.

So welcome to Anna. We feel very privileged to have you on board today.

We also have Dr. Stephanie Wescott, a researcher feminist researcher and lecturer at Monash University, in the School of education, humanities and culture, who has done fabulous research on the very issue that we’re going to shine light on today.

So welcome to Anna and Stephanie.

Mary Crooks AO: I would like to be able to facilitate a conversation with Anna and Stephanie, the 3 of us, and between those 2 people over the next 40 min or so, and then we will. If time has permitted, we’ll throw it up into a QA. And I will just be urging you. That will be a moderated QA. And Ally will ask that will put the questions through to me. But I’d be urging you all to to do what you do best, which is to conduct this Q and A, this conversation with the utmost of respect and civility.

Mary Crooks AO: So let’s go on to the discussion now with Anna and Stephanie. So context is crucial in all of this, and and sometimes I think debates run and issues get amplified without people taking stop of exactly what is happening, of what are the realities, what is going on around an issue, before we head off to be looking at analysis and solutions.

So I will start with you, Anna, if you don’t mind of what is going on when we talk about malevolent influence, when we’re talking about the radicalisation of Australian boys, not just Australian boys, but that’s our that’s our wheelhouse.

Mary Crooks AO: What do you think is going on? Is it same same, but different? Or are we seeing a spike?And what do you mean by the notion of radicalisation that might be occurring with the influence of people like Tate.

Anna Krien: Alright. Well, I mean, my interest was actually sparked by Stephanie Wescott and Steven Roberts, you know, the really incredible thorough research paper which they published in December. And it was basically it was kind of like just tapping at a nest, and everything spilled out as soon as I read it there was.

Anna Krien: It was talking about this sort of growing emergence in classrooms of these particular groups of boys who had been quite emboldened where they hadn’t been before. Basically making their classrooms. Hell not just for their female teachers, but also for their peers. So I read this piece by Stephanie and Stephen, and realised that, I think a lot of us have, those of us who are tuned in have got this sense that something has been going down.

There’s there’s increasing talk of Bros, and there’s increasing. There’s lots of protein shakes going around. And I think what we and it definitely motivated me to go and chat to Stephanie and Steven about their work, about what was going on in these classrooms.

Anna Krien: Also, because I have, obviously a lot of friends and colleagues who also teaches, and it didn’t take much for me to just say, Hey, something going on in the classroom, and they said, Yes, something is going on in the classroom, and, to be honest, I’m thinking about leaving it. And for me that set up alarm bells in a major way, because obviously we’re here to talk about misogyny and radicalisation. But what we also have a massive school crisis at the moment, and we can’t be losing teachers. And we especially can’t be losing teachers to something as swamp like as this.

Anna Krien: So yeah, I mean, I would throw it probably back to Stephanie to talk about. What, you know, brought this piece to a head for you.

Mary Crooks AO: So, Stephanie. The the lovely thing about leading with Anna is that it showed that something has piqued her interest. What what was it that picked your interest? So now let’s have you tell us the essence of the research that you’ve been carrying out.

Dr Stephanie Wescott: Yes. Well, thanks so much. So for me, beginning of last year I started seeing news reports coming from the UK. Reporting on teachers, complaints about boys behaviour in their classroom, but not in the way that we have known it to be forever in schools. This isn’t a new issue. Just to say that there’s a long history of experiences recorded of women.

You know, dealing with sexism, misogyny, sexual harassment in schools in our research as well,  I have to acknowledge, Professor Jane Conway, Professor Amanda Keddie, and Professor Jane Wilkinson, who have published on this for decades now. But I was seeing these news reports, and I was just wondering if what these women were talking about in the UK, was also happening here.

Dr Stephanie Wescott: So they were saying that Andrew Tate has changed how boys are talking to women and girls, and how he, how they are treating women and girls in schools! And there wasn’t any support available for these women. They were even told that they weren’t allowed to talk about it.

Dr Stephanie Wescott: And so I just wondered if that was also happening in Australia. And so we, you know, put a call out on social media to talk to women in schools about what they were seeing. So our point of interest was just what’s going on here? Is it the same? Is it different? And we were inundated with responses from women who wanted to talk to us. And even still you know, I’ve been doing this sort of research now for over a year. And I still receive emails, social media messages from women who want to talk and who want to say ‘this is happening’. And ‘I want to leave’ or ‘I have left’. ‘I can’t do it anymore’. So that was yeah, for me, it was that it was happening in the UK, and then we found out, of course, that it was rife here as well.

Mary Crooks AO: So joining the dots. Back to you, Anna. Perhaps, your work, your book, Night Games, sexism, power, violence, abuse classrooms, the current debate around family violence, sexual assault, and the murder of women. So what is the you’ve talked about? An uptick — that this is not something new and uptick. But what is in your view the common thread? Or is there a common thread that does in fact, link these kinds of different sites that we’re acknowledging in our society classrooms today. But also homes, workplaces, sexual harassment, social media, the emergence or the exacerbation of violent pornography.

What’s what’s the common thread in your view?

Anna Krien: Right well. I mean, I wrote about Tate in the sense that he is like Trump for teams. Right and Trump, he’s obviously tapped into something that’s going on, and he’s got this swagger and this shamelessness about him that Andrew Tate does as well, and I guess the parallels that I saw between.

Anna Krien: My book, Night Games, which was looking at sport and sexism and in sport, and these sort of shades of how women are treated, and this sort of Tate phenomenon is but few things. One was this performance of being a man. This really this leaning into what defines me as a man is everything that you’re not as a woman.

And you know, I remember reading when I was writing my book on football, the more equality and the more vocal women’s rights became, the more emphasis there was on this fitness regime to make the body bigger, to make a kind of a he man like to so sort of more to sort of have this almost physical embodiment of strength and madness. And so I guess Tate really does speak to that. I mean, you know, he’s got those ridiculous videos of him doing push ups in the snow. He’s constantly posing semi naked in the mirror, and he sort of spouts this constant self-improvement monologues. And you know ‘I am a warrior’. ‘I’m everything that a female is not’ basically so I guess there was that obvious parallel of  ‘How can we define ourselves against the inferiority of women?’

Anna Krien: There was also that sense of the bizarreness of wanting to not attract the female gaze, but the gaze of other men. I found that really fascinating, that was definitely something that was prevalent when I was researching Night Games is this idea of a woman was would be drawn into these issues. But it wasn’t ever really about the woman, it was about performing for their male peers. And, you know, sort of growing themselves in stature.

Anna Krien: And the other parallel I so saw was, there’s a massive there’s machinery behind these men that are making quite a lot of money. And you know, Youtube has earned significant amount of revenue from tight same with TikTok. Same with X. All these kind of things.

Anna Krien: We can say that’s bad. But why are we saying that? Why are we saying that this corporate structure is allowed to earn money or something that is making our lives hell! Making classrooms hell. So I think it’s really important to connect the dots to the performance, to the money that’s been earned from that performance.

Mary Crooks AO: And just on that, then, as a bit of a follow up joining the dots, isn’t that also because when you look at — and we’ll come on to Andrew Tate a little bit more in a minute — but from what I’ve read of his quotable quotes, and so on, that it is also the subjugation of women. It is about exerting control and power and domination over women. It is still that classic cocktail of women being there at their behest, and that they actually control the terms of engagement in relationships and so on.

Mary Crooks AO: Isn’t that what we’re also seeing played out in the debates around the spike in in the homicide debate of women being killed by vengeful partners? Is that something that you see?

Anna Krien: Yeah, I mean, what happens when the service provider demands respect? What happens when the service provider says I don’t want to provide that service to you? How how does one respond? And how does what lessons does masculinity give to boys to respond to rejection? To respond to, ‘no, this is you. You’ve got to make your own lunch’, you know those kind of things. I think there is a sense of, ‘if if there’s no one beneath us, then where the hell are we?’

Mary Crooks AO: Hmm, Stephanie, in terms of the research and the responses you got back from teachers in particular. How is this radicalisation being played out in the classroom itself? So what’s been the reality as you’ve been uncovering it from the actual experience of teachers?

Dr Stephanie Wescott: So the reality for women who we spoke to, and women who we haven’t, there is a daily daily exposure to vile misogyny, to sexual harassment and to systemic sexism. This is perpetrated by — of course, it’s not every boy in their class — but it’s a minority that are pervasive, and influential enough to have an effect. The women who are at the front of a class, and also the girls who are sitting there also, being subjected to it and hearing it and going, ‘Right. Is this what I am to expect from the world?’

Dr Stephanie Wescott: Broadly it’s things like there are sort of these sort of minor acts of Tate influence that women can identify, such as emulating a particular pose that that tight will often take in podcast interviews. And when he’s on video, so a woman will walk into the classroom, and the boys might be sitting the way that Andrew Tate sits. And of course, not all teachers are going to be able to identify that. It depends on their knowledge, but for the ones who are aware, that’s a provocation, and that’s a type of violence against the woman who then has to work can do her job in that classroom.

Dr Stephanie Wescott: So there’s also physical intimidation, women being surrounded in the yard in some instances women no longer doing yard duty on their own, because it’s not safe going with another person with another teacher.

Other acts of violence, like one of our participants, a student spat in her water bottle in the classroom, and really disgusting things being said to women being asked of women and comments about their appearance, about their body. Things that are so upsetting and disgusting, but that women are accustomed to that, but for some reason in schools, women are expected to accept it and tolerate it.

When they report it to school leaders, or to colleagues., they’re gaslit, they’re told, ‘I’ve never seen that before’, ‘I find that hard to believe’. Or, ‘are you sure, perhaps you misheard?’ ‘Are you sure you didn’t mishear, didn’t he say something else?’

Dr Stephanie Wescott: Or, ‘that’s just who they are’,  ‘that’s just how they are’,  ‘that’s just those boys’. So that’s really, commonly and coherently what we’ve heard from women across the country. What surprised us was that didn’t matter where they taught, who they taught, which sector they were in, primary, secondary. Their stories were the same, pretty much.

Mary Crooks AO: And we’ll come to the question of the cultural leadership around the principles and other teaching colleagues. Anna, you describe in your The Monthly article you talk about female teachers on a high wire act, defining the student behaviour as, they’re combative, they’re motivated by the idea of an argument usually about a woman’s worth. Sometimes it’s aggressive, but they also do this with smug politeness. This quirky fake respect, it can be really difficult to combat.

Stephanie, is that the kind of thing that surrounds this, in terms of, when you’re talking about the mimicking Tate’s behaviour?

Dr Stephanie Wescott: Yeah. And it’s grounded in that fundamental belittling and disrespect towards not only women, but teachers as well. The profession is dominated by women. It’s considered a caring profession. It’s feminised, and so there is nothing more. There’s no target more worthy, I think, than a woman who is in this sort of profession, where, you know, she’s altruistic. She cares about her kids. She wants them to do better. She wants the girls to do well wants the voice to do. Well, what a target! What a perfect target!

But the thing to note about some of those points that Anna raised, is these narratives, these myths: The wage gap gender wage gap is a myth. Family courts are biased against men. Men are accused of rape falsely all the time. The nuclear family is under threat. These are common myths. These are common narratives of figures of the manosphere, and of Andrew Tate. And so these are boys being trained to provoke women. With these myths and narratives.

Mary Crooks AO: So let’s move on to him a little bit. I mean, we know he’s in Romania. We know he’s facing charges of rape and trafficking. We know all of that, and I think, I read in your commentary that there are female parents, for example, who are attesting to the fact that Andrew Tate’s been good for their boy, he has got something positive from it.

My hunch is that very same female parent has possibly not actually done her data research, because I’ve gone in, had a closer look at Andrew Tate, and I can see on the one hand, sort of ‘boy made good’ from bullying at school, and he’s focused on talks about discipline and purpose and being intensely focused all which, and social, and being very entrepreneurial and very successful. So there’s a certain allure.

Mary Crooks AO: But you’ve only got to look at the guy then, in terms of you know, women are not meant to lead. They’re meant to follow. Women are attracted to strengthen power. A woman’s true power lies in her ability to inspire and support her man. Women should focus on nurturing their femininity rather than trying to be like men. Women should prioritise their roles as wives and mothers over pursuing careers.

Discipline is not a punishment. It’s a practice of self control and self mastery. So I think you’ve only got to take a bit of a close look at this guy to realise that. There’s a an interesting cocktail where you can sort of understand at one level, how he could be providing an attractive message, reinforcing male power, in an attractive kind of way. But it’s essentially deeply misogynistic and naive young eyes not necessarily gonna work it out.

Anna Krien: Also deeply insecure. You know, if you were truly confident, if you were truly in control, then you wouldn’t worry about having strong women around you. I mean, it doesn’t take a successful psychologist to work that out. But then why he does have that allure is because he’s responding to a deep insecurity in these young boys. You know, they might be on the ‘net, because — you’re anxious about your body. You’re anxious about talking to girls. You’re anxious about sex. You’re anxious about your role in life. Who are you gonna be? What if you fail? Are you already failing?

Anna Krien: And I absolutely agree. I think parents aren’t doing their due diligence. There’s no doubt about that. And it’s incredibly frustrating that a lot of you know, babysitting has been outsourced to the internet. But at the same time I can also see how you might think, ‘Wow! Andrew Tate’s got my kid off the couch. He’s no longer a lump. He’s physical. He’s motivated.’

Tate has succeeded where school has failed. Where family has failed, where the world of so-called opportunities have failed. So Tate has obviously got something that these boys want. And it’s motivating, and you know he’s giving comfortable, very comfortable answers to very uncomfortable questions about self, about society, about structure, about the fact that most of us aren’t really gonna get out of the gutter, and go to that big fancy house. He’s giving these really comfortable reasons for why that’s not going to happen. And it’s obviously because of women’s in front of you. And she’s in your way.

Anna Krien: I think that’s a really important thing to think about is is, you know, it’s the deep in security. And I think that’s a valid feeling to be having. I don’t think we should be denying that feeling in young men. I think there’s very good reason for why they might be feeling insecure right now, and not just them, obviously. But you know what is waiting for them.

Mary Crooks AO: And I think Anna, that ties into from what I read is that the Andrew Tate line of argument, and I’ve seen some of his defenders. They actually are critical of the movement for gender equality which they so seem to see as a flattening out of things which doesn’t mean a lot, doesn’t carry a lot for them. And I think that we’ve got to claim, and reclaim, in all of this is that if we’re serious about the benefits of gender equality, it would start to address even the needs of the boys and the men you’re talking about.

Show me a man who’s abusive and violent, and show me whether there’s joy in his life, whether he’s a happy man. So I think that question of also being able to promote, what are the real benefits for men and boys? If we do actually achieve genuine gender equality, we we can’t lose sight of that, and and have it sidelined even in the current debate, as it’s too long term.

Mary Crooks AO: Stephanie, can I come back, with the time that we’ve got, and talk about the cultural leadership that I think you’ve intimated so far might be going missing in a lot of schools. You talked about female teachers, maybe being gaslit that, you know, it wasn’t a real problem going on.

So you know, we’re being asked in the wider debate for men to step up on this question of the murder of women. It sounds to me as though you’re also asking the men in the education system, in the high schools, in the private schools to be stepping up as well. Is that right?

Dr Stephanie Wescott: Yeah, absolutely. And so women they want their colleagues to step up, and they want their colleagues to be their allies, and they want them to listen to them and to believe them when they talk about this sort of stuff.

There are some good things that schools are doing so educating parents about who these manosphere figures are, and what kind of conversations I can have with, boys and girls about them when they encounter them.

Also, schools do run things like programs, or they get speakers to come in. However, the issue with those sorts of responses is that they’re only very short term. And so they might come in and cause an incredible emotional response from boys. And then they leave. And then, the teachers step back in and do the work that they are already doing.

But one of the key issues, too, that we’ve also identified in our work is a real reluctancy and hesitancy to name the behaviour that women are reporting accurately. So instead of labelling it, as disrespect towards women, it’s actually gendered violence. We want that to be something that is addressed.

Dr Stephanie Wescott: In our work that we’re doing, we want schools to start recording data on incidences of gender violence against women and girls in schools, because currently we don’t have this data. We don’t know how widespread this problem is in schools. And so how can we shape an appropriate response if we have no understanding other than the anecdotal evidence that we’re constantly told isn’t enough. Women stories aren’t enough. We spoke to 30 women, and then we’re told by multiple media outlets that wasn’t enough women, that was an insignificant number.

But 30 women from any single organisational field, telling the same story, is actually a lot of women. So recognition naming this problem exactly what it is, recording it, measuring it, knowing exactly what we’re dealing with. Schools are obsessed with data. So they need to be obsessed with this data, too, so we can do something meaningful long term and do justice to women and girls who are dealing with this every day.

Mary Crooks AO: And it seems to me that an awful lot of resources actually exist, but I think there’s probably an underinvestment by society at large. You know that schools might not have budgets for things, or they might not be able to bring people in or so on. I mean, I’m thinking back over the last few days with the debate raging and something that Anna referred to, you know, around the platforms, social media, TikTok. And the unregulated violent pornography industry that is delivering huge commercial benefit to its investors.

I mean, people like Maree Crabb and Dave Corlett, they broke new ground on this 15-17 years ago, and we were privileged to be able to bring some philanthropic money to that. Maree Crab in particular, outstanding work for 15 years on It’s Time We Talked. Their first project was called Reality and Risk, which was exposing violent pornography.

And one of the things that I remember back then, was that as soon as you started to entertain the talk about violent pornography, and its impact on boys especially, is that people turned around, started to accuse you of being a wowser. Instead of actually drawing attention to this insidious influence on boys, and their view of intimacy, and being able to do sex with their girlfriend, and so on, was turned into some kind of puritanical issue.

Mary Crooks AO: So, Anna, I want to come back to your question about the kind of platform that Andrew Tate has. You know, he’s been platformed by industry across social media, Tiktok, Youtube, and pornography. Commercial interests. It’s unregulated, isn’t it? This is part of the problem that there are no filters. There’s no checks and balances on kids. I mean, you know, kids can be accessing this on their phones at primary school. What’s the wider, big, concerted social pushback we require?

Anna Krien: Yeah, I mean, don’t get me started on social media and devices. It’s a whole new situation which I find incredibly frustrating. Schools have been pushing ipads into families for 10-15 years. And now they’ve only just decided to sit up and say, ‘Oh, maybe we should have added a few disclaimers to this’. Silicon Valley has entered education in a really poor, poorly applied way.

I think, basically what it might also come back to education. Sometimes I think we just get a little bit too much. The constant programs, and the constant discussions with men talking to boys, about what you should when someone says this? And how should you behave when someone says this? I mean, there’s no context for kids. There’s just rules.

Anna Krien: I actually don’t have a problem with kids wanting to push back against rules wanting to question them and resist them and critique them. I don’t think we can just but lump a whole bunch of rules onto kids without explaining why. And, you know, I have 2 young boys, and if I was to just be watching them as an anthropologist, not engaging with them, I can see the world as they would see it.

They’re obsessed with fairness. It kills me. They constantly think everything should be fair. Welcome to the world! It’s not fair, but they all all these books all around them, ‘Hey, girls, you’re fantastic. Girls are awesome. Girls can do this. Girls can do that.’ They’re constantly seeing this redistribution of power, this redistribution of pride and culture that a fantastic, absolutely fantastic measures that we are all working towards, and we are all bringing women into, you know, into the twenty-first century.

Anna Krien: But for these kids, they’re going well, ‘what about us? It’s not really fair.’ They don’t know. I mean, my boys wouldn’t. When I ride my bike with them. I say, ‘hey — back! When bikes were invented, when women rode a bike, men would throw rocks at them.’

Anna Krien: That’s gonna stay with you, not me saying, ‘Hey, you should respect a girl when she wants to do something sporty.’ They’re like, ‘so what? You should respect a boy when he wants to do that.’ You have to give them the history, you know? When you walk into a pub and say to your kids, ‘hey? You know, there was a time, if a woman walked into a pub, men would pour beer over their head because they weren’t welcome here.

Anna Krien: Those are important lessons, and those are lessons that will stay with them and build empathy and an understanding of the project that we’re on together. There are times when I really just think it’s not landing, telling them how to behave without telling them why. It just falls off. It doesn’t stay, and I find that really frustrating. I mean, you know, history is probably the most important thing all of us can be doing in in all areas. And they’re not getting that. They’re not getting it at school, and they’re not getting it at home.

Mary Crooks AO: Yeah, I agree, absolutely agree. I you know, I remind people, for example, that when women push for the vote of a you know, 130 years ago, in this country, their appetite for enfranchisement was not so much for democracy. It was actually to do something about the violence that women were experiencing and the kids in homes and on the streets. And that shocks people. The point being that if you look closely at our European culture and society, since white settlement in this country, we’ve had a deep, dark underbelly of violence and abuse towards women which we’ve moved away from an awful lot. And we’ve been able to make a lot of progress.

Mary Crooks AO: But I think, as you’re saying, and one of the challenges from a gender equality point of view is to make it real for men and boys to make it attractive for men and boys, and to get in there and support their role in in their society as true partners along with with women and girls.

Stephanie, before we go into Q&A, can we come back to the question of the cultural leadership of how critical is that right now. Not just the way boys might be supported, but the way, we’re getting leaders in schools, male colleagues and principals to step up on this issue?

Dr Stephanie Wescott: It is absolutely crucial, as you say, not only because of what is happening in schools, but more broadly in society, where, of course, we’re dealing with a crisis and violence against women absolutely no surprise that that’s occurring in in our schools, too. It’s just a microcosm of what’s happening in broader society. But what we’re actually starting to push for is a campaign in schools like we’ve done with anti bullying campaigns. A zero tolerance approach to gender violence in schools, and that is cultural leadership that will drive cultural change that says from the outset, anything that falls under this type of behaviour is unacceptable. It’s not going to be tolerated, and we’re going to call it out.

Dr Stephanie Wescott: That’s not happening at the moment. There’s a culture of tolerance. There’s a culture of excuses and of actually enabling. So there are serious incidents that occur in schools that are dealt with in-house that actually create a culture of enabling.

Dr Stephanie Wescott: That’s actually harming boys, because if they don’t learn that there are consequences for this kind of behaviour when they move into the world, they may encounter those consequences. That’s a lesson they’re not learning from their schools. So that cultural change in schools about zero tolerance, stamping it out, calling it out.

And that’s everybody, not just women, because largely, it is the women in schools who are driving and leading, and who are actually experiencing this behaviour so that needs to come from the from the department level, but also from a government level. We are yet to have a response from government on this issue. And that’s what’s missing. That’s what will guide and shape the response.

Mary Crooks AO: Hmm! And the zero tolerance is the flip side of social license. You know this notion that you can be enabled because there’s a whole lot of subliminal social license that’s been going on for decades. I asked Christine Nixon, a former police commissioner of Victoria, I asked her a few years ago, when we were doing our podcast series on The Trap — which I would urge people if they haven’t seen it, to go back and watch those episodes around coercive control especially. But I asked Christine Nixon, why do men kill their intimate or former partner? And she said: ‘because they can.’

Mary Crooks AO: And I think I’ve thought a lot about that recently. Because they can. If you think about that and unpack that, that’s about deeply subliminal forms of normalisation and social license that enable particular behaviours and abuses and violence to keep on being perpetuated, or perpetrated.

We need to give people the chance to ask you to questions. So I think people have been popping questions into the into the chat. Ally, would you like to feed Anna and Stephanie some questions?

Ally Oliver-Perham: No worries. Hi, everyone. I’m Ally from the trust. So we’ve got a lot of great questions in here. One is directed towards you, Stephanie. From your work, do you have any insights into responses from leadership in schools? When female teachers and staff raise these issues?

Dr Stephanie Wescott: There’s a range of responses. Going from blaming women — so saying, ‘you just need to be more authoritarian’ or, ‘it’s just your behaviour management style.’ That’s on one side of the spectrum. The other side is supporting them and acknowledging what is happening, and consequences for boys and perpetrators in the school. But from the women that we’ve spoken to nothing that they would consider satisfactory to what they’ve experienced or proportionate to what they’ve experienced.

Ally Oliver-Perham: Someone else has raised, what are some of the long term impact, we think this behaviour will have on the current generations of young girls and gender diverse people?

Anna Krien: I mean, that’s the issue, isn’t it? Is this the constant oxygen suck, we’re talking about with these boys. ‘Here we go again.’ From the teachers I’ve spoken to there’s been a sense of, the girls are putting their hands up less. They’re getting involved less. And it’s not because there’s so much taking this misogyny on board, more that they just can’t be bothered. They just think, ‘this is so boring and frustrating, and I’ll just tune out.’ I’ll just tap out. And the same with the other students, the other males, the other people in the class, I guess everyone shrinks because there’s only so much room in a room for that kind of behaviour.

And I mean, how? How will that pan out in the future? I guess there’ll be a maybe there’ll be just an an increasing retreat into bubbles.

Mary Crooks AO: What about you, Stephanie?

Dr Stephanie Wescott: Well, in terms of what’s happening now in schools, I’ll echo what Anna’s observed. Teachers telling us that girls are a lot more quiet than they ever have been. That they’ve just learned to put up with it. But there’s a there’s an impact on their education. Very tangibly. In some examples that we’ve heard about, girls are moved out of subjects because the boys in there harass them to so much and they let they apparently cannot be stopped. So the girls miss out on subjects that they excel in, or that they love.

In Victoria, on their attitudes to school surveys, the data is showing that girls are reporting that they’re not enjoying school and that they feel unsafe.

Dr Stephanie Wescott: So I wonder if we’re going to see that manifest in their achievement. I wonder if girls are going to start underperforming and underachieving, but what I am concerned about, and what I think about all the time is what messages girls are internalising about what they can expect and how they can expect to be treated, because if they’re seeing a teacher who they love and respect and admire being worn down every day by this sort of behaviour. And nothing really happening institutionally. Then they’re sort of they’re taking on the message that institutions won’t respond when these things happen. And there’s really, and that there’s nothing that can be done about it, that they just have to sort of tolerate it and expect it. And that should concern us all, especially schools.

Mary Crooks AO: I think it’s terribly important that we don’t feel overwhelmed by it, though. We have to, maybe, refigure what we’re going to do about it. But I think it would be a terrible shame if we took a backward step on this issue, the same as backward step on, you know the kind of law reform and the policing and the funding that’s needed for a wider attack on violence and abuse. I mean, schools shouldn’t have to struggle for funds and resources to do this kind of work.

As that’s our as a general principle, Ally. Others?

Ally Oliver-Perham: That’s a good segue into Rhiannon’s question, which is: In your work and research, has either of you come across examples of where this behaviour is being addressed effectively?

Ally Oliver-Perham: [laughs] The silence is telling.

Anna Krien: I think Mary just spoke to that is that there’s a lot going on at schools already. There is definitely a sense that a lot has been put on teachers, plates, and not not much taken off. And you know there is also a lot of teachers who say, maybe some of these things need to come from home. Why do we have to do the raising? Why do we have to create the values? And obviously, if you can’t fix what’s happening in at schools, it’s going to be even harder to fix what’s happening in in family units. But maybe it’s all about setting the tone. Maybe it doesn’t have to be in schools.

Anna Krien: But I mean, I think this is what people struggle with is, how can we say their behaviour is bad, if it’s a success somewhere else? I mean, you think about the leader of the opposition party. He was a proud member of the swinging dicks club in Parliament. He was proud to be part of that club. That then made sure the only capable member of his party didn’t become leader because she was a woman. And, you know, maybe so many things wouldn’t be on teachers, plates, or in schools that are, you know, 4.6 billion dollars underfunded in the public sector.

If we had values, if we do all agree on these values, then they need to be reflected in other parts of society.

Mary Crooks AO: Yeah. And and it’s no, it’s no small point that you know. There’s a survey earlier this year that showed that one of the most unsafe workplaces in Australia is actually medical surgeries.

Anna Krien: Hmm.

Mary Crooks AO: So, you know, and a department of infrastructure graduate program where 2 thirds of the cohort, a male so they were circulating allegedly a hotties list where they were judging the the females in the program for the physical and sexual appearance. So this is my point, isn’t it? That if we start to compartmentalise the issue of violence and abuse and misogyny and sexist uptake or uptick, if we silo that, we’re actually doing ourselves into service.

Mary Crooks AO: But we have to grapple with the context in which this is all occurring, and if we’re ignorant about our past, we’re ignorant about the trends that have been working away. Beavering away there for decades will be will be stymied in what we put forward as solutions.

Mary Crooks AO: Stephanie. Your response to the issue of resourcing and supporting teachers in schools? Have you seen some great practice that’s working there?

Dr Stephanie Wescott: Well. One thing to mention is that we have the respect for relationships curriculum, which was designed as an intervention, an early intervention. And to do this precise work that we’re talking about. I’ve seen it come up a little bit in the comments, but often what teachers are telling us, and I experienced this myself as a teacher, is that that program and curriculum is so diluted in schools. It’s meant to be a whole school approach. It’s not meant to be just relegated to 1 one classroom, however, one class, however, many times per week that class runs.

Dr Stephanie Wescott: And the other thing to mention is whenever there is an initiative or a curriculum approach, or a set of resources that try to intervene in social issues, it becomes so politicised and so attacked and so degraded that it shrinks and shrinks and shrinks. You just have to look at what happened to Safe Schools to see an example. So there are great things that schools can use, and that schools are doing to, you know, do their best, but also they run the risk to when they do this kind of work of being accused of being too political, or you know, having an agenda, having some sort of “social engineering agenda”, as it’s often called.

Dr Stephanie Wescott: So that’s frightening accusation. This is commonly wielded against teachers and schools who you try to do this sort of intervention work too.

Mary Crooks AO: Hmm! Ally, another question to feed in.

Ally Oliver-Perham: There are about 30 questions, I’ll be honest. We’re not going to get through them all. But there is a really good one that I’d like to bring in, which is from Helen and she says: I’m conscious of not shaming teenage boys when they ask challenging questions or provoke women in Tate style. What’s a good way to respond? What do you think is the most persuasive?

Anna Krien: Hmm.

Mary Crooks AO: Anna to you first, maybe.

Anna Krien: Hmm! I mean it is hard, and it is confronting. I coach a boys basketball team, and you know, I have had moments when I’m like, oh, this wouldn’t have happened if I was a guy! And it is incredibly hard to build respect.

Anna Krien: One on one, I don’t think it’s that hard, but when I think this is the problem, I think when it’s in a classroom, and you’ve got onlookers, and you’ve got bystanders. And then you’ve got a group. I think that’s really hard. And there’s that sense of, obviously, you don’t want to shame someone, but I don’t even think shame would work in that in that classroom context, because the whole point is, how do we? How, you know, [critique] his swagger and shamelessness.

Anna Krien: I think the frustrating thing in classrooms is that if you could unpack it, if you had time to unpack it, maybe you could deal with it really. Well, but you don’t. [Teachers] have got to do this, and they’ve got to teach that, and they’ve got to roll out all these other things. I mean, maybe if there’s time to unpack this, ask ‘why do you think that? Oh, let’s you know, maybe let’s turn this into an inquiry.’ Let’s really look at what what it is that you think you’re saying, and why you think you’re saying it? And you know, talk about this as as a proper group with time on our hands. But there’s that there’s not enough time to respond in that really thorough way.

Anna Krien: Maybe we should go to Steph and Mary, because I find I find shame really tricky, and I find it really tricky, because there is something in the the culture of masculinity that absolutely, viscerally can’t hack shame. Like there’s this response to shame that doesn’t really happen with girls and women, because our response is, ‘I’m sorry’, because we’re always sorry.

Mary Crooks AO: Well, because I think I think, Anna, that shame is the flip side of invincibility and superiority, and being set up to try and succeed and dominate and control, and if you can’t seem to do that with ease, and you fail, and you feel vulnerable, you slide into feeling shame, would be my take on it.

Mary Crooks AO: But one of the things I was struck in your article, and you know, in terms of one teacher, one female teacher, I presume, quipping to a student who is inquiring her thoughts like, you know, hey, miss, what do you think of Andrew Tate, and I loved her response. “Actually, you tell me he’s in your feed, not mine”, which I thought was on the spot. Not bad, actually.

Stephanie, can we come back to your response to that last question?

Dr Stephanie Wescott: Yeah, I think I would agree with Anna’s comments about inquiry and and openness and interest. But it needs to be that can only apply when the question is asked in good faith. And it’s an actual question. Boys are interested in hearing from the women about the women who we’ve spoken to. Actually, ‘Miss, What do you think about Andrew Tate?’ is a challenge and a provocation, and it doesn’t matter what those women respond with because they’ve learned what to expect fr. Teachers know how to respond well and how to bring a whole class together to discuss this or to have a one on one or small group conversation. So it’s sometimes insulting to suggest that teachers need, you know, guidance or need support. I mean, they need support, but need guidance about how to do these things. They do it all the time. They do it every day.

Dr Stephanie Wescott: But I would just say that it’s on the teacher to decide in that moment whether that’s going to be a productive conversation, or whether it’s just an in to then spiral with a whole lot of other things about. You know, other gender myths. So the one that Anna mentioned — you tell me. That’s always a great response. Explain to me what you find interesting about Andrew Tate.

Dr Stephanie Wescott: But it has to be safe for the women to ha for the women to have that conversation. Has to be in the right environment, the right time.

Mary Crooks AO: And can I say to Stephanie, you know, cause I think there’s nothing to be gained anywhere by demonising men and boys in this whole debate either. But I do think that one of the challenges and we put a great value on listening in a whole lot of circumstances, and I would think that you know, one of the things we should be stressing is, if boys do want to talk about or have some discussion about Andrew Tate, and what it is they might find appealing is that they they need to be listened to.

Mary Crooks AO: They need to be heard. They need to be encouraged to articulate what it is and not not be jumped all over about it.

Mary Crooks AO: But we do need to move on, Ally. Is there one last question?

Ally Oliver-Perham: Sure, if you think you’ve got time? So Luke asked: What is it about the Education Department’s reluctance to protect women and gender diverse teachers in their workplace?

Mary Crooks AO: I don’t want to be a smarty pants, but we haven’t got 3 days to answer that one. We’ve got 2 min.

Ally Oliver-Perham: Well, I don’t think I’ve got any that would be a 2 min one. Although, what advice can we give to our girls in response to such negative behaviour?

Mary Crooks AO: I’ll throw that one to to Anna and Stephanie. But I would say on the education issue, I would give 2 words or 3 words: institutional cultural inertia. That would be my response.

Mary Crooks AO: What what about that second question? Anna and Stephanie.

Dr Stephanie Wescott: We need to empower girls to speak up to people who can act on their behalf. It’s not up to girls to manage their own safety at school. This has to be leaders. And so when girls speak up, when they report these things, when they disclose things. They need to be believed, and they need to trust that the person who does who’s in position to act will act in their interest to protect them. So I would empower girls to tell somebody who they know will help them in their school, and girls know who those people are. Hopefully, there’s at least one of them.

Mary Crooks AO: Yup, Anna, last word on you on that one.

Anna Krien: Yeah, I think that’s the right advice. I’ll probably give some not so good advice, which would be, you know. Roll your eyes. Tell them they’re a loser. I don’t know. You don’t want it to be a combat zone in the school yard, at the same time, yes, you want them to have somewhere to go. But obviously that’s not happening. There isn’t somewhere for them to go, and sometimes I think that there’s a bit of an arrested development going on in the schools. You know, lot of them. They’re bored. They’ve treated like kids and toddlers when they’re actually becoming young adults. They have no agency. They have no control over their lives.

And I think maybe there needs to be probably a bit more empowerment going on from from families and schools and society, so that they don’t go seeking it.

Mary Crooks AO: And I do need to to close off with a couple of comments, but I I’d add to what Anna and Steph are saying in that, you know, not expecting the classroom and the schools to be doing the work of society on so many fronts. And I think you know, as citizens, as adults in this world, we’re facing glaringly obvious issues around the need to regulate a whole lot of industries that are having harmful impacts on our kids and our women and men, and so on. So you know, we’ve got political power. We’ve got pressure we can bring to bear through our elected representatives.

You know, we look at the the letter from the the cross bench women today, the the series of changes that they’re proposing around the issue of violence. So here are women who found their voice and found their way into the parliamentary sphere. So I think we’ve got a lot of standing up to do ourselves as adult men and women. On this question of cultural leadership and using our own power to bring about legislative pressure, and so on.

Mary Crooks AO: And my very strong advice to parents, male and female parents is to just go if you’re concerned about Andrew Tate you’re hearing, go to the source, work it out for yourself. It’s not hard.

When you actually have a look at what Andrew Tate says, and what he does is not hard to actually square the ledger around him, and the kind of influence that is really going to be fairly harmful in the end.

Mary Crooks AO: Look on that note we’ve had a fabulous attendance today. We’re over subscribed, actually. But we have recorded this session for those who couldn’t make it all for those who want to. Alert friends, family members, others to it. And the reason I think it’s been such a good discussion and a well received discussion. If I can see people’s messaging and an hour of good investment on the part of our audience is because we’ve had 2 very accomplished thinkers and practitioners in Anna Green and Stephanie Wescott.

So, thanks to both of you for making the time available for lining up and agreeing to it at fairly short notice a few weeks ago. We thank you for that, and strength to your arm, both of you, in terms of the research and the writing that you’re doing, the way you’re embracing your own power in that regard.

Thank you to the staff of the Trust, Ally, Rachael, other staff for being able to put this webinar on today.

Mary Crooks AO: So take care out there. Don’t be too overwhelmed by the ferocity of the debate at the moment. This is the time for cool heads to prevail over next weeks and months as we work out how to to deal with these challenges. Thank you. And goodbye.