Man or Bear…. Woman or Bear?




There’s a hypothetical question that has been raised that is being discussed on social media at the moment. It’s a question being asked of women, arguably it could be asked of men in some form as well, but as it stands the question is directed towards women, “If you were alone in the woods, would you rather encounter a bear or a man?”

If you were a woman, what would you say?

I don’t know if it surprises you that a lot of women have responded that they’d rather encounter a bear. While there are men that agree with their response, I’d probably feel hurt by the response if I was a man. I’d also want to know the logic behind their thinking.

If you were alone in the woods, would you rather encounter a bear or a man?

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If you leave a bear alone, it’s less likely to attack you, than a man is, say some women. The arguments go that even if you are attacked by a bear, no one would try and justify the bear’s action and blame it on the woman, saying that the bear attacked her because of what the woman was wearing or what have you as the case may be.

While I find the argument uncomfortable, and disagree with the conclusion of preferring to encounter a bear to a man, it cannot be denied that there are women who have had real life experiences with men that have led them to this sad conclusion.

Domestic abuse is a global issue

While there are women that can be abusive – mental, emotional and physically, women are much, much more likely to face domestic abuse from men than what women are likely to be faced with. And yes, I know that it does not reflect the behaviour of all men. 

Going beyond just domestic abuse, men that intentionally harm women are a minority. There are, however, those that unintentionally cause harm with “innocent banter” attitudes, behaviours and unwanted attention, possibly not understanding women’s boundaries or knowing when to stop. Then there are those that stand by and don’t intervene or tell other men to stop – possibly not recognising it, not seeing it as their business, possibly feeling powerless in the situation or themselves being afraid of the perpetrator of the abuse.

I can’t speak to percentages, but I do know that while there are men that are abusive or stand by when women are subjected to abuse there are also men that will always stand up for women – even at the risk to self.

Back to the woods scenario – there is a key question for women as to how they determine which men are supportive and which are likely to cause them harm.

Personally, I’d rather encounter a man than a bear in the woods, most especially if we are going to end up spending some time together.  Yes, there is the possibility that he may be one of those that can be harmful. The flip side is that he may be one of those supportive men that will be good company through whatever the experience in the woods may bring.  Who knows, I may even ask him the question, present company excluded, “If you were alone in the woods, would you rather encounter a bear or a woman?”

I don’t want to be an apologist for men when I say that aside from general criticisms that some men may have of women, there are women that can be abusive towards men too. So much so that there are now support services of men faced with abuse. I remember seeing a documentary recently – I believe it was an extreme case in which a wife was emotionally and physically abusive toward her husband. The situation was so severe that he would cower whenever she came near him. Ultimately the case was reported to the police and following an investigation she ended up going to prison. I doubt if any man would want to encounter such a woman in the woods, or a woman who may ultimately levy false aligations of abuse against him.

The need for conversations

I believe there’s a need for conversation about all of this if we want to happily move forward. That out of fear and concern, women can speak of preferring the company of a bear to a man is hurtful, but speaks to the need for conversations about how men and women relate to each and how we can positively impact on each other for good. Not just in relation to abuse, but more generally – what should our relationship be as we move forward and how can we more effectively live and work together… in harmony.

If I encountered a man in the woods, the question about the bear may be an opening to our conversation. But more pertinently, I’d want to ask him questions about life as a man in the 21st century. How does he believe things have evolved over time for good and for bad. What he believes things are like for women and the challenges that we face as women.

Just as he shares he’s insights, I’d want to share insights of my own so that by the time we leave the woods, we would have developed a mutual understanding and awareness of each other as well as others of our genders – for me that would take us towards gender harmony.

I don’t believe we should need to physically go into the woods to have these conversations. I do believe there is, however, the need for safe spaces where we can share experiences, reflect and just talk. First about ourselves and our experiences, and then about ourselves in relation to others. It’s in that, that we become better as individuals and as humanity as a whole, creating what I refer to as a Mosaic World in which everyone is valued for who they are and what they have to offer.

The role of men, and male perspectives

I’ve long pondered the role of men in the modern world. I started thinking about it even more when I interviewed a number of men for my book, Male Perspectives on the Value of Women at Work. While I started with the objective of understanding the challenges that stand in the way of women’s progression at work, I also developed a heightened awareness of how men and women navigate the workplace and the world at large differently, together with the challenges both genders are faced with. Until we really start to talk and listen we will all be limited.

I’m glad you are here listening to some of my thoughts. I hope they provide you with food for thought. How about we make this into a conversation  - what do you think? I’d love to know more about you, your experiences and thoughts on how we all jointly move forward for the benefit of our present generations and generations to come.

  • I recall reading one woman answered that with the bear she knows the outcome is likely to be bad while with the man there is no way of knowing which way things are going to go. I guess for her there is comfort in some predictability. I wonder what the response would have been from women if it had been asked in the 1950’s but my guess is no one would have dreamed of asking such a question at that time. The bigger question is do people now in 2024 feel less safe no matter where they are or what sex they are. Maybe ask “If your car breaks down at night in a desolate spot and you have two choices for help: 1) There is a house off in the distance with a light on or 2) you can have a cell phone to use. What would you choose?

  • Thank you Susan. My first comment is to thank you for joining our “blogging community” . I hope you choose to continue to add your voice to our community.

    You rightly point in your blog the need to have conversations, men and women speaking together in safe spaces , on subjects that matter, like this one!

    I read an article in the Washington Post yesterday on this subject, that completely missed the point.

    The Post article was opinion piece authored by Meagan Mcardle. It was more a reflection on Tik Tok and the power of a 29 second video followed by a list of statistics that we are aware of highlighting the threat of violence faced by women from men.

    Mcardle posits , if there were as many bears walking around as men, how safe would women be, she called it confusing a probability with an inverse argument. She lost me in her blah, blah, litany of statistics without any comment on need for serious dialogue as a precursor to change.

    What was lost was the in her meandering essay is what you are highlighting , in my opinion, the need for safe spaces to have this conversation. To confront and to discuss this issue, and how we, as individual men, can work towards bringing needed change.

    A unique feature of the Whysmen Virtual Pub , is we have created a men’s group that has a separate event program , where both men and women can meet in safe spaces to have conversations like the one you have so rightly highlighted as being essential.

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