The question is ‘Would you rather be alone in the woods with a man or a bear?’ For men, the correct answer is to listen to what women say.

OPINION: The viral social media question asking women if they would rather face a strange man or a wild bear reveals that a lot of men are missing the point.

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Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

The man versus bear debate has the internet in a chokehold because a lot of people have no idea how to deal with this conversation about how dangerous it can be to be a woman. The conversation’s starting point is a question for women. The last two words there are critical. Posing the question to men changes it entirely. Posing the question to men is irrelevant. In this conversation, men are not meant to answer the question. They’re meant to interact with women’s answers. Many men are missing the point.

The question is, if you were alone in the woods would you rather encounter a bear or a man? Women are answering bear. Overwhelmingly. About 99% of the women I’ve seen answer this question say bear. I asked my wife and she immediately said bear. I asked my sister and some of my female friends. They all said bear. Most women would rather encounter a bear. That’s clear. That’s the easy part of the conversation. The hard part is when and how men enter the chat.

Many men have completely flunked the test. That’s because dealing with the idea that women would rather encounter a bear requires men to do something men are rarely asked to do: decenter men. Don’t fixate on what you, a man, would do. Don’t focus on what you, a man, think. Think about what women are saying and why.

If a man hears 999 out of 1,000 women say they’d rather encounter a bear than a man and he says, “That’s crazy,” then he is part of the problem. He’s dismissing women’s answers. He’s not listening to them; he’s judging them. And he’s not remembering that women experience the world differently than men. 

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If a man hears women choosing bear and he says, “Well, I would choose a man,” he’s missing the point entirely. He’s centering the male experience. He’s saying what he would do but so what? Most men aren’t a threat to most men so, of course, they’re comfortable encountering a strange man in the woods. But the question is not for men to say what they would do. For men, the question is can you understand why women are saying what they’re saying? Can you accept their answer and see it from their side?

Sometimes women ask men what they would want for their daughter—to be alone in the woods with a man or a bear. Some men say bear, but some say man. But this rephrase is a distraction. For men the important thing is not for us to answer the question, it’s for us to listen to women and understand what they’re saying. 

Men need to resist the urge to say, well, this is how I would answer. What men should do is say, what are women saying and why? We all know that encountering a bear could be a life-threatening moment so why would so many women say they prefer to encounter a bear? Ask questions and listen. Don’t inject your perspective, just take in theirs, even if you don’t understand it. 

I have heard a lot of women make these points.

1.  Bears will only kill you. (That means, bears won’t rape, which some women say is worse than death.)

2.  Bears will often go away when told to go away. (Often, they say, men will not.) 

3. Bears will always see you as human. (Men may not.)

4. If you say you got attacked by a bear, everyone will believe you.

Men should go to women in their lives and ask them if they would rather encounter a man or a bear, and then ask them why they said bear. This next step may be the hard part. Listen to their answers. When you feel the urge to say, I disagree, swallow that, and continue listening. Try to understand what they are saying. Remember that how you feel about it doesn’t matter. All that matters is understanding what they are saying.


Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of Masters of the Game on theGrioTV. He is also the host and creator of the docuseries podcast “Being Black: The ’80s” and the animated show “Star Stories with Toure” which you can find at He is also the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is the author of eight books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter.