What you need to know:
These influencers have accrued millions of fans online, claiming to front real masculinity. How are their disparaging remarks on females influencing young men and women?
Simp. You are probably one of the many Kenyans who were not familiar with this word until three years ago. Today, you probably throw it casually in your conversations, thanks to the Twitter influencer, Amerix.
The sexual reproductive health expert and social media commentator uses the word to describe and ridicule ‘‘weak men’’ in his #Masculinity Saturday forum.
Ranking high with simp are words like ‘effeminate man’, ‘soy boy’ and ‘wuss.’
If you are familiar with the work of Amerix, Andrew Kibe and Andrew Tate, you already know that they claim to champion men’s ‘‘rights’’ and to help them ‘‘unleash the beast’’ in them.
Andrew Tate is a British-American social media influencer, media personality and former professional kickboxer. The disgraced founder of Hustler’s University offers online training on wealth creation and relationships.
In January this year, Tate was arrested in Romania on charges of sexual harassment and human trafficking.
The trio’s alpha male ideology puts emphasis on the man’s ‘‘frame’’, wealth and masculinity because, to them, a man is defined by raw vigour, power and control.
Beneath this pro-men gospel, is vicious anti-feminism rhetoric and even violence against women in what has come to be known as toxic masculinity.
Indeed, to Amerix, even sex is not a moment of mutual intimacy between a man and a woman. Rather, a space for the domination of the woman by the man in an environment of absolute conquest.
Wherever you look these days, you will likely encounter slogans such as ‘‘manhood is in serious jeopardy’’, ‘‘it is a man’s world’’, “boychild under siege”, and ‘‘men are reclaiming their place’’ and their derivatives.
In one of the episodes of Andrew Kibe’s show on YouTube titled ‘‘Who Hurt You’’, the host says: ‘‘This show is purely for men. If you are here as a woman, you are lucky.’’
‘‘My mother was a seriously manipulative b**ch. Until I became a man,’’ he says and goes on to describe his father as weak and mother as evil. ‘‘He did not protect me against her.’’
But it is Kibe’s admission that he lacks love in his system that shows the severity of his position.
‘‘I am hateful. I tried [to love] but I could not,’’ he says.
The male followers
For Gen Z men like Jackson Ngari, 21, following Andrew Kibe and Amerix, and subscribing to their content, comes virtually naturally.
‘‘I believe they say some things out of experience. As a man in his 20s, I have learnt how to communicate better, plan my future, self-care and generally how to conduct myself.’’
The journalism student at Rongo University, however, admits that there are extreme biases against women evident in this content. ‘‘I have some reservations about some of the things he says. I tend to filter it out.’’
Not so for other men in his circle. ‘‘They are Kibe’s diehard disciples. Whenever we hang out on campus, Kibe and Amerix and their content dominate our conversations. Some of them do not believe a man should be vulnerable in front of a woman,’’ Ngari reveals.
‘‘A ‘real man’ is a manipulative language used by modern feminists,’’ says Samuel Njiru, another follower of Amerix’s, in response to a tweet by him.
For men like Twitter user ‘‘The Wailer’’ who support Amerix’s views on women, men have everything to lose. They also believe they are getting the shorter end of the gender stick. He observes: ‘‘As a man, the world is always against you. You should always fight for your space.’’ On multiple occasions, Amerix has sensationally claimed that ‘‘men do not need women’’ and that it is women who need men. ‘‘A man is needed. A woman is wanted. A want is not a need.’’
If Amerix’s take on the power play in a relationship is contentious, his advice to men on childbearing is outright absurd. ‘‘Do not sit down with your woman to ‘agree on having a baby’. A man decides when to have a baby. He controls conception because he is the source of the seed. You are the source. Value your seeds.’’
Influence of women-hating posts
Ngari says the rise of Kibes in society is slowly realigning men’s outlook. ‘‘You start to look at life based on what you have heard from these men. Soon, you pick up some behaviours from them.’’
He does not believe manhood is under any siege, does he? Without expressly admitting or denying it, Ngari appears to suggest that the biggest threat to manhood is when men take up certain practices associated with women.
‘‘If I started twerking on TikTok today, I would be ridiculed by other men. Kibe would obviously not be pleased with me,’’ he says with a chuckle.
Whereas Gen Z and millennial men are most affected, this negativity spills over to their women counterparts as well, affecting them socially and emotionally.
Edna Kari, 23, says that when men in her social circle consume such content, everyone gets affected. ‘‘Some subscribe to it and preach these beliefs. I occasionally stumble upon it on my timeline. Sometimes they men share it with me on WhatsApp.’’ This makes it hard to duck the extreme patriarchal narrative, she laments.
Does she think this kind of content affects her as a young woman? If so, in what way? ‘‘It does. Both directly and indirectly. Content is powerful. Such men are a danger to themselves, a danger to women and a danger to society. They cannot listen to a woman because they think they are superior to women.’’
She wonders: ‘‘Which modern woman wants to be with a man who cannot listen to her? Someone who objectifies her or sees her as a lesser being?’’
Olivia Wandia does not mince her words in her description of such men. ‘‘They are violent misogynistic incels,’’ the commercial lawyer says passionately. ‘‘When I look at them, I see frustrated husks of men who think that everything that is wrong with their lives is women’s problem but theirs.’’
Her biggest fear, though, is the huge following these personalities enjoy on social media. In 2022, for instance, Andrew Tate was one the most searched personalities on Google, alongside British Prime Minister Rishi Sunk, tennis star Novak Djokovic and actor and filmmaker Will Smith.
On Twitter, Amerix has 1.2 million followers while Kibe has 435000. They are serial offenders and a public outcry just is not enough to stop them from attacking the next woman.
Wandia vows that there is no justification to teach men not to be vulnerable. ‘‘Exhibiting masculinity and being in touch with your feelings are not mutually exclusive as men are being taught.’’
But just how masculine should a man be? Cecilia Mbote says protection, love and authority are all the masculinity qualities ‘‘any upright woman’’ needs in a man.
‘‘I need someone who makes me feel safe from harm, whether real or imagined, mental or physical,’’ Cecilia, 27, says, adding that women need constant reassurance.
‘‘A woman, whatever her status, will easily fall in the arms of a man who listens to her, including her bodyguard.’’
To her, a man stepping up power through responsibility rather than toxic masculinity is what attracts a woman’s submission to him. ‘‘You do not have to be a dictator or a chauvinist. Be a king who knows how to lead your woman in the right direction.’’
To Wandia, those who troll women are ‘‘failed men’’ who have ‘‘trouble getting into proper, healthy relationships.’’
Men like Amerix and Kibe oppose popular and progressive movements such as diversity and inclusion in organisations. Their argument is that entities that subscribe to and promote these values are doomed to fail.
‘‘Go woke, go broke,’’ the reproductive health expert controversially states on inclusion.
Whereas she occasionally interacts with this type of content on social media, Wandia says she does not engage. ‘‘I just laugh at the sheer ridiculousness.’’
She also does not think Amerix and others believe in some of the ideologies they perpetuate. ‘‘They are cunning individuals who know how to position themselves in controversial spaces to cash in on it.’’
‘‘I hate it that they have convinced men, especially those in their formative years, that women are the problem,’’ Wandia adds.
Countering the narrative
To counter this avalanche of misogyny, different entities have come up with forums for men's education. Last year, NTV launched The Man Cave. On this platform, empowering masculine discussions are held. These revolve around wealth, health, self-development and relationships. Men also get to network.
Chief executive of Jubilee Holdings Julius Kipngetich, who was a member of the panel of The Man Cave’s second season in January, believes men too should be vulnerable. ‘‘I think what we are lacking is a safe space to express that vulnerability. Organisations must provide these safe spaces for men,’’ Kipngetich advised men during the first edition of the forum in November 2022.
Why misogyny is growing
But what makes men treat women with distaste, malice and violence? Is it a lack of role models, an absence of love or just waywardness?
Psychologist Paul Ngugi says psychological narcissism, a sense of insecurity and being stuck in the past are to blame.
‘‘In patriarchy, men were used to privilege. Some are still stuck there. There is also a lot of fabricated information on social media about how men should behave. They are taught to be supermen, which is not possible,’’ Ngugi says.
Some men are threatened by empowered women. Others do not think women should be empowered at all, he adds. ‘‘For such men, it is easier to deflate women than to support them.’’
Prof Scott Galloway of New York University sees a deeper problem. ‘‘Young men have [either] been left behind by a societal movement [or] find themselves on the wrong end of the shift,’’ Prof Galloway says.
This, he argues, is forcing young men to look for answers about their manhood in all places, including in toxic forums.
Ngugi says more experienced men should carry their own along like women do. ‘‘Women have become more forceful in mentoring other women. There are schools and forums where women are trained. We barely have such for men, which needs to change.’’
At tens of millions of watch hours on YouTube, there is no denying the thirst for this type of content. So, why are human beings attracted to misogynistic and misleading content? Is it so irresistible?
Psychologist Maryann Waruguru describes it as issue of ‘‘adult peer pressure.’’
‘‘What these personalities reinforce are negative beliefs that people already have. Patriarchy and male chauvinism, for instance, have existed in most societies for centuries,’’ the psychologist argues.
Watching or listening to the promoters affirms these beliefs in people, she says. ‘‘This is why you end up with people identifying themselves as students of Tate or Amerix.’’
But how does consumption of such content influence behaviour? Maryann says human beings are inclined to take up practices they are already exposed to. ‘‘Behaviour is psychological. It starts with what you believe then how you feel about something. You then act from that belief.’’
That these people have gained popularity in society through other channels makes it easier to perpetuate their narratives, she observes. ‘‘As ‘public figures’ they are more believable.’’
Meanwhile, where the media overlooks misogynists to avoid mainstreaming their views, social media gives them unlimited airtime and a wider audience to perpetuate controversy.
What do we do?
Lately, however, social media companies have been ‘‘deplatforming’’ such individuals. To deplatform, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is to deny someone an opportunity to ‘‘make their ideas or beliefs known publicly, because they are dangerous or unacceptable.’’
To be deplatformed, however, a formal complaint has to be made against the account, followed by a review. There are also instances when the verdict favours the perpetrator.
But even when determined for suspension, the move could be only temporary. A case in point is when Tesla boss Elon Musk went on a reinstatement spree of divisive Twitter accounts that had been blacklisted when he bought the company.
Among those who made a comeback are former US President Donald Trump and Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson. Peterson has earned infamy for his contentious views on gender issues, notably the gender pay gap.
In 2022, Amerix’s account on Twitter was verified by the microblogging site, making him a ‘‘notable personality’’ on the platform. A day later, the verification badge was withdrawn. The account has since been verified again.
So, to highlight or to suppress such platforms?
While the prime promoters of such content may be banned, misogyny often continues to fester, wafted by their army of disciples who share it on multiple platforms. When the content is downloaded and redistributed by third parties, controlling its spread becomes difficult.
Prof Galloway blames big tech for the mess, arguing that the companies do not help in the fight against male extremism. The academic says big tech creates algorithms that elevate ‘‘controversial and coarse content’’ fuelling these discourses.
For Ngari and other consumers of such content, not everything, though, is harmful. The student argues that the rise of Kibes in society is slowly realigning men’s outlook. ‘‘You pick up some positive behaviours from them.’’
Says Philip Wekesa: ‘‘Teach them teacher. May the Heavenly Father bless you abundantly for volunteering to educate our men.’’ To him, Amerix is a gift to society. ‘‘This century needs more men like you,’’ he adds.
Do these men actually believe manhood is under siege? Samuel Njeru seems to think so. ‘‘The relationship between a male and a female is the attraction and polarity between femininity and masculinity. It is not the transactional partnership that [perpetuated] by modernism.’’ To him, there is no equality between men and women.
Kari agrees that there may be useful lessons for men from promoters of masculinity, noting, however, that important messages are largely distorted by the surrounding controversies.
‘‘It is obviously objective to talk about men’s health and nutrition. But why would I pay attention to a misogynist?’’ she poses.
Prof Galloway concurs. ‘‘There is more positive and benign masculinity in the world than there is toxic masculinity. We need to fill this void. There is need for young men to feel what they are feeling.’’
What’s fuelling the growth of online misogyny?
In recent years, toxic masculinity has been fuelled by online campaigns by misogynists and anti-feminist movements in a space called ‘‘manospere’’.
The Institute for Strategic Dialogue defines manosphere as an umbrella term that refers to a number of interconnected misogynistic communities.
‘‘These include multiple types and severities of misogyny, from broader male supremacists to men’s rights activists (MRA) and involuntary celibates (incels),’’ says the institute.
Such men attack women for a sport and glorify manhood to feel good about themselves. What distinguishes them from other chauvinists, however, is their level of extremism.
Women infuriate them by just existing, and so are men who show ‘‘weakness’’ by having functional and healthy relationships with women.
Some of the ‘‘celebrity couples’’ such as Terence Creative and Milly Chebby are a favourite punching bag for Kibe, with humiliating comments made about them on multiple occasions.
Last year, a report by the Secret Service highlighted the threat of violence, including mass violence, posed by incels, owing to their inability to form intimate relationships with men.
Posting threatening communication and controversial online content about women, the Secret Service says in the report, are some of the signs of incels.
Often, these men possess ‘‘interpersonal difficulties’’ and may have a history of being bullied themselves. They could also be experiencing financial instability and failed life aspirations, the service says.
In far worse cases, assault has been meted on women, resulting in trauma, serious injuries and even death. A 2018 shooting at a yoga club in Florida resulted in the death of two women seriously injured.
“The attacker was motivated to carry out violence by his inability to develop or maintain relationships with women, along with his perception of women’s societal power over men,” the Secret Service said in the report.
Kenya has not witnessed cases of mass violence so far, but misogynistic violence has manifested mostly in foul language targeted at random or specific work and, in some instances, domestic violence. Misogynists are also known to exhibit stalking tendencies.
While teenagers and young men, both Genzers and millennials, are at higher risk of indoctrination by these individuals, research shows that the average misogynist has no specific profile. Perpetrators transcend age, education and socioeconomic boundaries.
They also exhibit inappropriate and even criminal behaviour towards women. While some openly identify as anti-feminists, others do not necessarily take up any ideological labels even as their behaviour ticks the boxes.