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Of Bears and Men and Meeting in the Woods

Sadly, a meme, while giving voice to fears of women, added insult to injury instead of healing.

 I’ve seen of late the assertion that a woman meeting an unknown man alone in the woods makes for an uncomfortable situation for the woman. So much so that, given the option of meeting a bear instead, most women would prefer the bear. I’ve dutifully tried to perceive the sense of this on its face without ‘whataboutism,’ defending the integrity of manhood, or other visceral objections.

If alone in a wood, a woman prefers to encounter a wild animal rather than an unknown man. Perhaps it is wise to ask why. Why?

  • A woman, most of the time, is physically weaker than a man. The man may overpower her and abuse or kill her. Or he may do as a man should do: greet her with respect, and leave her alone unless she asks for help.
  • A woman, all of the time, is weaker than a bear. The bear may overpower her and abuse or kill her. Or the bear may, as often happens, readily run off. It is simply not the case that all bear encounters result in attacks. Most do not – and when it comes to black bears it is exceedingly rare.

This fictional situation deals with setting, nature, fear and hope: given certain settings what are people most prone to do, what should they fear, and for what can they reasonably hope?

  • Setting: alone in a wood.
  • Nature: 1) Man is a man. 2) Woman is a woman. 3) Bear is a bear.
  • Fear: 1) Man will act like a beast. 2) Woman will be vulnerable. 3) Bear will act like a beast.
  • Hope: 1) Man, may act rightly. 2) Woman, vulnerable. 3) Bear, may run off and do no harm.

Conclusion: Odds are greater the man would misbehave. Take chances with the bear.

What may be said beyond this? A look at implications seems fair. A few that seem true would include:

  • Vulnerability is the key issue. How must it feel to know you are at the mercy of another person or a wild beast? We have all been in both situations on some scale, though death is seldom one of the possible outcomes. Physical vulnerability is not comfortable, to say the least.
  • It is a matter of odds: What are the odds the man would kill the woman? The whole thing is necessarily hypothetical so it is very hard to say, but I would think odds of death are very low.
  • Abuse and harm, but not death? Odds could be slightly higher that the man would do actual harm.
  • It should go without saying that any woman would have cause to fear meeting an unknown man – or a bear — alone in a wood.


  • What’s a man to do? Be a good man. Of course it is awkward to meet alone. Respect that difficulty, act with discretion and utmost respect, and move on unless help is requested.
  • If help is requested, be a man and offer it if possible but, as a matter of principle, avoid any relational entanglement. Merely talking about this is difficult but it is the reality of life. No blame, just reality. It is highly likely the woman will respect that and all will be well. The man: do right, help if needed, move on.
  • Does it feel insulting to men that women would prefer a bear? Yes, but so what. Some men have earned that fear for the rest of us. Women are more vulnerable than men in some situations, and this is one of them. Forget the offense and be a man which means you always treat a woman with honor.
  • Are men sometimes vulnerable to women? Of course, but that is another discussion for another time.
  • Should the woman have been in that situation? We all encounter situations we could not anticipate and we learn discretion thereby, or not. Since this is hypothetical, it is a teaching tool and certainly it is possible the woman could have avoided the scenario without undue constraints on freedom. In our world we have no guarantees of good conduct by others so we have to plan accordingly and we will sometimes misjudge the possibilities.

The perils of male-female relations are ever with us in this fallen world. It does no good to malign all men as beasts, nor to slander all women as irrational. Both are capable of causing and receiving incredible hurt.

Happily, both man and woman are also capable of incredible love, self-giving, meeting the need of the other in ways we were designed to do. Such a path is the answer to the painful problem, and if odd discussion of bears and men and meeting in the woods can help us remember that, so be it!

Sadly however, I conclude the meme, while giving voice to fears of women, adds at least some measure of insult to injury. Perhaps my effort to take it at face-value has merit – and I tried, I really did – but in the end I can’t overcome the embedded insult to men. It helps nothing to malign men this way. But then again – the man that would potentially pose a threat in such a situation would understand the meme in a whole different way, understanding completely why a woman would feel the way she does – and in his mind – does.

But alas, as a reminder we are coached not to toss the whole basket given the (hopefully) rare bad apple.

In every man is a yearning to be all he should rightly be. Encourage that, dare to believe that. Many men likely feel hated / ridiculed by countless cultural voices and my guess is this meme acting as a “data bit” does not help. Calling us out as potentially less than beasts only piles on. I would offer that encouragement to true manhood is a FAR better strategy, but the morass of immorality that we suffer across the whole of society surely makes it worse.

We have lost our way . . . yet, there are ways to find it again. One good way to start would be to cease and desist on messages that demean men.

Randy Huff

Randy Huff and his wife lived for 5 years in Roanoke (Hollins) where they raised 2 sons. Randy served as Dean of Students at a Christian school and then worked in construction. For the last 8 years he has served as pastor of a church in North Pole, Alaska.

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