by Ethan Seavey
If you look at my profiles online, they are catered to appear normal, if dated. I haven’t posted very much over the past few years, and those that I have posted have been relatively mundane, which mark the relatively mundane moments of my life. They’re honest and small, like a photo of the street as I walk to school, or a picture of my friends at a park. My profile molds itself to match me.
My feed, however, tells a different story. If you were able to see what I am gifted by the algorithms of Snapchat, Youtube, and Instagram you would have a wildly different opinion of me. Scroll just a little and you’ll hear phrases like “Men hit their prime at 30-40, while women peak in their early 20s” and “when I get married, she won’t get access to my bank account; she’ll receive an allowance of 2 million a year; you can’t trust them, I’m serious.” A couple of months ago, my feed looked nothing like this. There were memes about Pokémon, ads for mobile games, and prank compilations. Now, my feed is full of straight white men teaching me how to power up my masculinity.
The ease with which I was able to deliberately change to this side of social media does worry me. For no other reason than the fact that I didn’t want to download Tiktok, I started watching the TikToks which appear in my Snapchat Spotlight feed. The idea, though, is the same: an infinite stream of short videos. The randomness to the media is part of the allure. Every time you swipe you can find a new video. If you engage with a video, by liking or sharing, or even by lingering on the video until it has finished, the algorithm learns to give you more similar content. That’s why when I started watching Spotlights I received only mobile game ads, because I had recently deleted all games from my phone and would listlessly watch others play them instead.
After a few weeks of this content, I was pitched a video by a white man with a thick beard who was streaming a mobile game, screaming insults at other players. I engaged with this by watching — not sharing or liking — and very quickly I was only fed his videos. It only took a like to really change the platform. I watched a video in which he called a fan a “bitch” and quickly hit the like butter.
What followed was a feast of misogynistic content. It started with the street interviews. These are popular on Tiktok, as far as I am aware, and the most common ones I’ve seen are “interviews” between awkward boys with cameras and random people (usually young women) they’ve selected off the street. Many of the questions these boys would ask would be sexist ones: “Out of you three girls, which one’s the hottest?” and “Would you sleep with her boyfriend if she never found out?” and “Kiss or slap?” The point is simply to get a reaction, which usually involves the subjects arguing with the host or quickly exiting the interview.
Even more: softcore porn of young women in tights; terribly scripted “challenges” in which young women are told to tell their brothers that they are in love with them; skits or POVs in which men step in and protect a woman in danger. And then: married couples who hate each other. A man who tricks his vegan wife into consuming beef. A woman who abuses her husband’s urge to be at her beck and call. A man whose only punchline is that he hates his wife.
I finally crossed the finish line when I was delivered the exact type of content I was looking for: videos of podcasts made by straight white men. They’re everywhere these days, and even those which are explicitly about, say, finance, often engage with misogyny for views. This is exactly the case with one creator, who wound up in my feed more than anybody else: Iman Gadzhi. A majority of his content consists of the man bragging about his wealth. In one video he says, “You think I know what food prices are? You think I check that? Are you dumb? The only thing that I’ve been like, oh, that’s gone up quite a bit, was jet fuel prices.” He talks a lot about finance and hits all of the buzz words, like NFTs and crypto. More interesting, though, are his videos which have nothing to do with finance. They’re about women, and what a straight white man has to say about them.
He has said: “I don’t believe a woman can have sex with someone with no emotions. Whereas men can, men it’s a very very very different thing.” He has said: “Dubai is very bad. For example, for girls, it’s bad, it’s very easy to pull girls, but it’s very bad if you want something serious. For guys, it’s great.” He has said: “I think as a guy as well if you’re on a date and the girl’s not giving you very much, just be able to entertain yourself, tell a story that you find interesting, or talk about your day, talk about something that you’re interested in hearing back.”
In his world, women are sex objects that aren’t even worth listening to. In his world, he is the sole voice on how women are, and what women want, without the need to even listen to a woman. The only woman he puts into a positive light is his mother, a single, hardworking mother, whom he mostly uses as a reference point to show how far he’s come and how self-made he is.
He has a stake in this appearance, of course. He wants to appear confident, wealthy, and strong. He emphasizes his masculinity at every step. He does this in order to get his audience to buy his courses on finance. Some sources online (though not reputable) have argued that his apparent riches come from these online courses and his audience, which would imply that he doesn’t think achieving his level of success is possible for most of the people taking his course—but he’s still happy to charge over a thousand dollars for access to his videos.
After watching enough of Gadzhi, I was fed similar podcasts. I was entering in a post-Andrew Tate world, in which all of his accounts have been suspended, but I frequently see his bald head exiting private planes, expensive cars, and yachts, in montage clips which are edited to idolize him. So much has been said of Andrew Tate that I have nothing more to add—but his grip on the young male users of the internet is still strong.
After all of this research, I thought I was already deep enough. But then it happened: my research spread to my other social medias. On Instagram I am fed similar podcasts now, and on Youtube, well, it was a different story. I use YouTube extensively, but just for my leisure. I hadn’t engaged with this sort of material on the platform, and I wasn’t intending on doing so, as it would “mess up” my feed. Still, it happened: on the home page a few days ago, I was fed a video with less than 300 views, titled “Celebrating 11 years of inceldom.” An incel is a term used by men online who consider themselves “Involuntary celibates” because they have come to the conclusion that women are nasty creatures who don’t want to sleep with them. I’m simplifying, of course, but I’m not far off. Following his profile, I watched several videos in which he degrades women by saying that they should be in power so that he (and all the other hardworking men) can be “lazy” and sit back and enjoy. I watched videos in which he defends his use of the N-word (“with the hard R”) and homophobic slurs by saying that he says them “to challenge you, to disturb you.” I watched several videos in which he calls out “ageism” present in the LGBTQ+ community, who doesn’t support relationships between 40-50 year old men and young women. He says, “Baby boomers only like baby boomers. Gen X only like Gen X. Milennials only like millennial. Gen Z only like Gen Z. What is that if not bigotry? Your preferences make you sound like a dick.” Completely contradicting himself, at the end of one of his videos, I read a faux dating application, in which he admits to routinely trying to pick up 15-17 year old girls. And he has found his community online, which gives him the attention and support he needs to keep creating.
All this goes to say that I am afraid, that this content exists, that this content is spread so easily, that I am one of the few people watching this content with awareness. Our youngest men are engaging with this content as soon as they pick up a phone. Boys know who Andrew Tate is and they know that he allegedly ran an online sex-trafficking ring, and they still edit him in black-and-white, with glittering effects, and explosion noises in the background, as he poses for nameless women in tightly-clad shirts.