The Purpose of the Man versus Bear Hypothetical

“If you were lost in a forest all alone, would you rather be stuck with a bear or a man?”

This is the hypothetical question currently taking the internet by storm. The reason this question is getting so much attention and analysis is because overall, women are choosing the bear.

At first glance, this might seem like an absurd choice – after all, a bear represents a tangible, mortal threat, while a human being should theoretically offer companionship and assistance.

However, the grim reality underlying the choice of being alone with a bear rather than a man speaks volumes about the pervasive fear and trauma that women experience due to the actions of some men. It’s not that women are perceiving bears as cuddly companions or benevolent protectors; rather, it’s a stark reflection of the relentless onslaught of sexual assault, harassment, and misogyny that women face in society.

The bear, with its primal instincts and unpredictable behavior, represents a danger that is comprehensible, tangible, and ultimately devoid of malice. A bear sees a threat. A human.

In contrast, the man in this scenario embodies a far more insidious threat – one that is all too familiar to countless women. The fear of being trapped alone in the woods with a man isn’t just about physical harm; it’s about the psychological torment of being subjected to unwanted advances, coercion, and malicious violence. It’s about the pervasive sense of vulnerability that comes from knowing that your safety and autonomy can be shattered in an instant by someone who sees you as nothing more than an object to be dominated and controlled. A man sees a challenge. Sometimes, men don’t even see the woman as human.

The bear symbolizes death in this hypothetical. It can be hard for men to envision a scenario worse than death.

Ask Junko Furtua if she would prefer the man or the bear.

Ask Shannan Watts if she would prefer the man or the bear.

Ask LaVena Johnson if she would prefer the man or the bear.

Ask Tristyn Bailey if she would prefer the man or the bear.

Ask Lauren Giddings if she would prefer the man or the bear.

Ask Aiko Koo if she would prefer the man or the bear.

The truth of the matter is, this whole article could be filled with examples of women who were brutally murdered, tortured, and/or raped because a man did not see them as human.

Here is the part of the blog post where I must state the obvious: not all men.

But, based on the internet response to this hypothetical question, men are not understanding the point women are trying to make. As Twitter (X) user @simplyjennifer put it: “Men, this is a hypothetical question and you STILL won’t take no for an answer.”

Of all femicide cases in the “high-income” world, 70% are committed in the United States, and yet a Pew Research Center survey found that more than half of American men think sexism is over. Nearly 3 women in the U.S. are killed by an intimate partner every single day. And that is just the statistics for intimate partner violence – not including murders of women that take place because she rejected a man, or if a man simply decided he wanted to kill a woman that day.

Additionally – an estimated 91% of victims of rape & sexual assault are female. Nearly 99% of perpetrators are male.

Adding on to the bear analogy – if you survive a bear attack, nobody will question if the attack really happened. Nobody will blame you being attacked by a bear on the fact that you were wearing a short skirt. A judge/police officer/family member won’t tell you that you’re “ruining the bears life” by reporting the attack. Nobody will say that the bear is a “good guy” deep down even though it attacked you. Nobody will say that you liked the bear attack. Nobody will say that you were attacked by the bear for attention.

The bear won’t use you to fulfill a sick fantasy. The bear won’t pretend to be your friend first. The bear won’t record the attack and send it to its friends. The bear won’t joke about it with its friends afterward. The bear might even run away if you scream loud enough. 

In saying that they’d choose the bear over the man, women are making a powerful statement about the reality of living in a world where the fear of men is often more palpable than the fear of wild animals. They are shining a light on the countless ways in which men perpetrate violence, hatred, and oppression against women, both in the wilderness and in the so-called safety of civilization.

But perhaps most importantly, they are asserting their right to exist free from the pervasive threat of male violence – to reclaim their autonomy and agency in a world that too often seeks to strip them of both. So the next time someone scoffs at the idea of choosing a bear over a man, perhaps it’s worth considering the harsh reality that lies beneath this seemingly absurd choice.

Holding other men accountable is the challenge I pose to the male readers of this blog. Listen to women, believe their experiences, and actively work to dismantle the systems of power and privilege that enable violence against them. If there is one rapist in a room with 9 non-rapists, but the non-rapists do nothing to stop the rapist – you might as well have 10 rapists in the room. We need the help of men to create a world where women can walk through the proverbial woods without fear, knowing that they are safe and respected.

After all, in a world where the fear of men looms large, sometimes the bear truly is the lesser of two evils.

If you need any additional information, have a question, or a concern, feel free to reach out to Options at our 24-hour toll-free helpline 800-794-4624. You can also reach an advocate via text by texting HOPE to 847411 or click 24-Hour Chat with Options.

Written by Anniston Weber