The Last Word On the Bear Versus Man Debate
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The Last Word On the Bear Versus Man Debate

Women would would rather take their chances with a grizzly in the wild than with today's modern man. How can we change the narrative?

“All my life, I had to fight. I had to fight my daddy. I had to fight my brothers. I had to fight my uncles. A girl child ain’t safe in a family of men. But I never thought I’d have to fight in my own house.” —Sofia, The Color Purple

Sofia told Celie this in Alice Walker’s seminal Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning novel The Color Purple. When this story was adapted to film in 1985, it drew massive backlash for its depiction of Black men. Everyone from Spike Lee to college professors were bothered, accusing Walker of stereotypical portrayals that could damage the Black male image. 

To the women of that day who saw the men of their lives embodied by the men in this novel, the images rang true, honest, and accurate. Today, we have a similar conversation circulating the internet—a conversation about women’s safety and the dangers of men. 

Well, if a girl child ain't safe in a family of men, would she be safer in the woods with a bear?

The answer has been an emphatic yes

A new controversial topic has taken over the internet, setting fire to everyone's timeline. The question posed to strangers in various scenarios is: 

“If you had to be stuck in the forest with a man or a bear, who would you choose?”

Seeming like a ridiculous question, most women responded quickly and confidently—the bear. 

As the numerous clips were shared, the predictable gender wars ensued in comment sections. Men, appalled, offended, and dumb-struck with incredulity, argued with women, claiming they were exaggerating and only wanted to paint men in a negative light. Spike Lee stated that Walker wrote Black men as “one-dimensional animals,” but it seems women would rather their chances with a different kind of animal. 

Skimming my timeline, I encountered this topic multiple times, but I landed on an insightful and sobering post by @oshuniyalbejishango on Facebook. It was directed to all the men who felt women were exaggerating, and it was an endless string of depressing stories. Some personal from women, others absurd and funny yet disturbing headlines about men having sexual relations with everything from a lizard to chickens to a car exhaust pipe to a pile of leaves, but throughout this thread, there were more devilish instances of men preying on children, torture and assault against women, death, sexual assault, and even instances of men having their way with corpses and unconscious women. 

On TikTok, @sharkymarieee, broke it down simply. She said this in response to a question about the difference between a man and a bear attacking a woman.

“The worst a bear can do is kill me…People would believe me, they would feel bad for me, and they would put the bear down and make sure the bear doesn’t attack anyone else.” She also noted that for a bear to attack her in the first place, she would have to be in the bear’s space - not in the grocery store, walking home from work, or in a parking garage.

Another distinction I saw from women online was the response. If a bear attacked a woman, most likely she wouldn’t be blamed for it, nobody would ask what she was wearing when she was mauled, and if she defended herself, she wouldn’t be called irrational, provoking, be gaslit, or called a b*tch for doing it, which has been expected for women when dealing with men.

Related: Let This Be the Year We Abolish Catcalling

As unbelievable as it may seem, bears aren’t as big a threat as we think. There are only about 40 bear attack deaths globally per year, with around 12 in North America. Bears are, of course, incredibly dangerous; by no means do I want you to walk up to a large black bear singing Bare Necessities like this is The Jungle Book, but typically, bears only attack humans when you enter their space, when you cross paths by surprise, or you threaten their cubs. (This demeanor does not apply to polar bears; those are cold-blooded killers. If you ever see one, run fast.) Even if you’re in the woods, the most common way people die is by falling or drowning.

I’ve seen some men flip this around and say they would choose a bear over a woman and discuss some nonsense about dating, gold-digging, or pregnancies, reaching like an otherworldly Wemby dunk.  There’s just no equal comparison. If a man turns down a woman’s romantic advances, he doesn’t have to worry about being beaten or murdered. When I went to a woman’s house (when I was single), I never worried about something being slipped in my drink or them overpowering me, and I have no fears of being drunk around a woman because I wouldn’t worry about them raping me. It seems we, men, are so spoiled in our safety among women that the concept of being unsafe with the opposite sex is outside our purview.  Looking online, one of the greatest fears men have towards women is that they get got for a $300 steak dinner. If that’s it, I'd take those chances any day. 

The irony or cognitive dissonance of men in this entire conversation is our apparent denial of women’s reality. We know ourselves but can’t stand to look at ourselves. As much as men are arguing with women in the comments about the dangers of men being overblown, these same men would never trust a man with their daughters. There’s a famous scene in Bad Boys 2 where Martin Lawrence and Will Smith’s characters aggressively interrogate a young man attempting to take out Martin’s character’s daughter. And at this time of the year, we are rounding the corner to prom season, and will inevitably see dozens of posts with a father, his daughter, and her date, but with the father holding some kind of firearm, feigning protective masculinity. We can’t say men are trustworthy, yet we don’t trust other men.

As of right now, the MC who rapped, “If you ever see me in the forest fighting with a grizzly bear, help the bear,” is currently in jail for crimes against women. Also, when we reflect on our fallen Black heroes, their reputations were almost all tarnished due to their violence against women. We tend to shirk collective responsibility because accountability for actions this severe is difficult to stomach. It doesn’t feel good; it becomes an indictment on us as humans, potentially gives credit to a problematic pathology, and appears to be more of a burden to bear forever than a calling for correction. 

@sunnmcheaux on Instagram discusses this perfectly, comparing the gender dynamic to the relationship between Black and white people historically. He said in 1624, 1724, 1824, 1924, and 2024, if he had to choose between being alone with a bear or white people, he would pick the bear because of the historical habit and propensity for various forms of violence of white people. “This isn't a commentary on how harmless bears are," Succinctly stated, "but how harmful whiteness has proven itself to be.” If men can understand that, then all we have to do is shift that dynamic one click over towards women. 

When I first saw this question circulating online, I brought it to my wife. I asked her the same question, thinking she would have to think about it, but she immediately answered, “the bear.”

“I know YOU would fight to protect me," she said, "but some stranger, no.” Her response highlighted the brick wall men keep banging their heads against—separating the individual from the collective. This defensive imperative to preserve our individual names makes us “not all men” the conversation and prevents us from being honest about the nature of men and the experiences of women. 

As difficult as it is for men to accept that they pose a greater threat to women than the animal that tore Leonardo DiCaprio up in The Revenant, we must take this moment to come to terms with our penchant for destruction. Before the viral conversation shifts back to goofy topics like $300 dates and “who eats first?” men must have a call to create a safe and healthy environment for women and be the “protectors” we say we are on all these podcast couches.