Man vs Bear: Why the global debate sees women choosing bears over men

A viral TikTok video that poses a hypothetical question has managed to divide the internet and anger men

Mahnoor Vazir July 02, 2024

For those unfamiliar with Man vs Bear, the debate might initially seem centred on determining the victor between a man and a bear in hypothetical combat, however, that is definitely not the case. Picture this: you’re a woman lost in a forest (the time of day is irrelevant in this scenario) when suddenly, you come face to face with a figure. Now, would you feel safer encountering a bear or a man you didn’t know? Most women choose the bear.

The Man vs Bear debate blew up on TikTok in April when someone posted a video posing this exact question. Since then, this imagined scenario has brought out the best and worst in debaters, with the discussion becoming a hot topic in the workplace, at the dinner table, drives with friends - you name it.


Bears for the win

First off, let's address the elephant (or should I say bear) in the room. When a woman imagines being lost in a forest, the last thing she wants is to encounter a strange man. Why? Because since the beginning of time we’ve been conditioned to fear the unknown male more than a predacious animal. A bear, in all its furry, growling glory, is predictable. It has instincts, sure, but it doesn’t harbour ulterior motives or questionable intentions.

The bear isn’t going to catcall you, make you feel uncomfortable, or worse. It’s either going to ignore you, run away, or worst-case scenario: treat you as a snack – which, let's face it, is a pretty straightforward and final outcome compared to the potential complexities of dealing with a strange man in the middle of nowhere. “At least it would be an instant death, rather than the long-lasting trauma of a man assaulting you,” is the most common answer women give when asked for a reason. The overwhelming majority that chooses the bear speaks to the gender-based violence that women and girls overwhelmingly face.

Men have lost the plot

Men, in their infinite wisdom, often misunderstand the crux of this debate. To them, it's a matter of strength and survival. "Why would anyone feel safer with a bear when I can protect you?" they ponder angrily, flexing their metaphorical (and sometimes literal) muscles. They miss the point entirely. It’s not about raw strength; it’s about trust.

A strange man in the forest could be anything – a hero, a villain, or just another lost soul. The unpredictability is what’s terrifying. Like the saying goes, “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” Men assume that their presence is inherently reassuring, but they fail to grasp the fear women feel towards men based on years of experiences.

A father’s choice

Some users are flipping the question, asking men whether they’d rather have their wife or daughter be alone with a bear or a man in the woods, and many of the men chose bear. Fathers, those ever-protective figures in a girl’s life. Why do they often choose the bear for their daughters in these hypothetical debates? Because they know the world. They know that a bear, despite the chance that it MAY maul you to death is still the better option.


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An argument can be made for men as well. Yes, the bear can kill you, but the man MAY turn out to be an individual of upstanding moral character, but women aren’t willing to risk that chance. But ultimately, whether anyone (of any gender) would genuinely rather come face-to-face with another human being or a predator animal that may or may not be hungry is a bit beside the point. This Man vs Bear discourse is not so much about the true threat of bears as it is about the dangers that women experience in the world. A lot of people seem to have missed that.

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