Men vs Bears: the Viral Trend that Revealed the Grisly Reality of Violence Against Women

TikTok question prompts debate on gender preference, highlighting trust issues and societal pressure to conform to gender-based violence, with women often preferring bears.

Men vs Bears: the Viral Trend that Revealed the Grisly Reality of Violence Against Women
By Mark Basarab, July 3rd, 2018, via unsplash

09-05-2024

Benedetta De Rosa

Women’s Rights Researcher,

Global Human Rights Defence.

“If you found yourself in a forest alone, would you rather run into a man or a bear?” The viral question posed to women is the source of online debate, starting from TikTok and spreading to Instagram. It is precisely the choral response to the question that has raised controversy, turning many men’s noses up; the vast majority of women would rather meet a bear.

The content started with SCREENSHOT’s video on TikTok, in which the interviewer asks a series of women on the street whether they would rather be stuck in a forest with a man or with a bear. The video went viral, prompting others to join the discussion by circulating that same question with other videos or commenting on the original video. The answer remained the same, namely that most women feel safer in the presence of a bear than a man.

To many this may seem like yet another trivial TikTok trend, done to create hype, but actually it should give us pause. We should ask ourselves what the social implications of these videos are, as they communicate a lot about the condition of women’s rights globally.

The common response is indicative of the fact that women do not feel safe with men. Many actually argued their choice: the worst thing a bear can do to me is to kill me; the bear sees me as a human being; the bear keeps his distance if I do it too; the bear would not derive pleasure from my death; no one would say I liked the bear’s attack or I asked for it; the bear would not film the incident to send it to all his friends. This and many more reasons are what come out of videos and comments related to the topic. A woman would rather be killed by a bear than be faced with the unpredictability of a man.

Men’s response has certainly not been long in coming. There are those who scream misandry, those who decontextualise, those who pull out of the conversation, and those who take offense. Just as most women choose the bear, most men focus their energy on social media to explain to women why theirs would be an ill-considered choice, and not to question the issues affecting their gender category. They do not ask why so many women choose the bear, where they are going wrong as a category, and, most importantly, why women do not trust them. Basically, they are not interested in questioning and deconstructing the position of privilege from which they speak, act, and move in the world, which is the same revelation that allows them to consciously and insistently ignore gender-based violence. Precisely with respect to this, women have developed a total lack of tolerance for this laziness and a weariness to educate men, which materialises in a state of pre-emptive alertness - so, they choose the bear.

Of course, it is clear that not all men are violent, but there are enough of them for women to consider them a threat. Not all men kill women, but globally one in three women has experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of a man. In addition, not being violent does not mean being exempt from responsibility; it is only the bare minimum. Rather, every man should actively engage alongside women to break down patriarchies and deconstruct the misogynistic attitudes they perhaps unconsciously reproduce, so normalised and ingrained that they are.

Instead of holding themselves accountable and asking themselves what their role in the feminist fight might be, they employ energy to pull themselves out of it, in the wake of “that’s not who I am”, delegitimising and belittling the anger of all women who experience violence and harassment at the hands of men every day. This also confirms and legitimises all those women who claim that in their eyes, after all, men are dangerous.

Sources and further readings:

[1] SCREENSHOT (2024) Would you rather be stuck in a forest with a MAN or a BEAR. TikTok. Consulted on May 09, 2024 <https://vm.tiktok.com/ZGeQpRF7e/>.

[2] Cece (2024). These comments from the “man or bear” trend. TikTok. Consulted on May 09, 2024 <https://vm.tiktok.com/ZGeQpr6Et/>.

[3] UN Women (2023). Facts and figures: Ending violence against women, UN Women. Consulted on May 09, 2024. <https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures#:~:text=Most%20violence%20against%20women%20is,subjected%20to%20intimate%20partner%20violence>.