From the Deputy Head Master – Summer HillLucas Thurston
In an interesting series of coincidences over the last few days, I was made aware of a social media influencer by the name of Andrew Tate. By his own admission, Mr Tate is a misogynist and conspiracy theorist. He was also a prolific poster of content on TikTok and YouTube, and has recently been banned by Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook because of his extreme views. Last month, Tate generated more Google searches than Donald Trump and Kim Kardashian combined, and in the last week or so, it has become clear that his reach probably extends into many of your homes and to the social media feeds of many of your sons. I don’t propose to canvas his views here, although, for the record, I repudiate everything he stands for and his worldview is antithetical to my own and to the values of Trinity Grammar School.
Not long after I became aware of Mr Tate, I read an interview in a weekend newspaper with Chanel Contos, the young woman who ripped the scab off the toxic culture of sexual assault in 2021 and forced us to have difficult conversations about consent, respect, and confront the normalisation of male privilege, a conversation we had to have I might add.
It made me reflect on the double-edged sword of social media, and the importance of mediating what your sons (and daughters) are being exposed to when they are quietly watching TikTok videos and scrolling through their Instagram feed in their bedroom. The danger of social media is not so much that any person with a mobile ‘phone can express outrageous views or tell outright untruths, but that your children are highly suggestable sponges whose filters are not yet fully formed. Our sons and daughters absorb information at face value, and not all of that information is true, and not all of that information is compatible with your values and ours.
At the risk of increasing Mr Tate’s clicks, it may be worth having a quick look at one of his videos, and then bringing him up in casual conversation with your children, as much in the interests of your daughters as for the conversational door it opens with your sons. Perhaps you can use the references from the news, or perhaps even this article, but I am of the view that if your son is being exposed to Mr Tate’s vitriol, he needs some adult assistance to mediate how he thinks about what he is hearing.
In the final of this series of coincidences, the focus of this term’s Life Skills programme is exploring the messages, challenges and stereotypes that surround masculinity and that your sons are exposed to as they grow to manhood. We have been talking to your sons about the particular set of norms and perceptions that make up the messages our community and our culture sends to boys and young men about what it means to be a man. Qualities and norms that may include self-sufficiency, toughness, physical attractiveness, aggression, control, and an adherence to rigid gender stereotypes. The reason we are focussing on this issue is because we believe that, as a boys’ school, we have an obligation to speak into this space.
The research is clear; that men’s (and boys’) endorsement of stereotypical masculine norms has a powerful influence on a number of harmful attitudes and behaviours, including violence, poor mental health, sexual harassment, binge drinking and risk-taking behaviour. Notwithstanding the research, it is important to acknowledge that we are not problematising being male. We are a boys’ school after all, and we are both positive and aspirational when it comes to masculinity and your sons’ potential. It is also important to note that our desire to equip your sons with positive and helpful messages around manhood is not new at Trinity, and that we speak regularly and often to your sons about the values and attributes we seek to inculcate in the boys and young men of the School; empathy, integrity, honesty, humility, and respect.
Bradley Barr | Deputy Head Master – Summer Hill