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Man VS. Bear

Maybe I’m the odd lady out, but I feel like weighing in on this viral scenario regarding a bear vs. man.

If you haven’t heard it, the gist is that many folks alone in the woods would prefer to run into a bear more than they would a strange man. Although I can appreciate that this feels true to many. And don't wish to discount very real experiences. I feel it’s unnecessarily cruel to the many, many men who are not dangerous. The men I choose to have in my life, my husband included, are loving, nurturing, respectful, and trustworthy. They use their influence and power to help and protect others. They’re the type of people I would like to be alone in the woods with in the case we do have a hungry bear coming for us.

This scenario isn’t being posed properly. If we’re talking about a desperately hungry bear vs. a man that is desperately hungry for connection and a sense of power— I’d prefer to take my chances with the man because I'd have better luck fighting him off and I think when people are honest with themselves, they would too.

Desperation is the key here. All desperate creatures behave in unpredictable, often dangerous ways. Humans are more likely to run across desperate men than desperately hungry bears, so people are understandably more weary of the men. 

From personal experience, I have found that many men who are craving connection have not been given the tools to healthily have it. They’re not irredeemable heathens, some just lack interpersonal skills.

Just the other day a man on his electric scooter made a u-turn and followed me for at least a mile on the bike trail. I decided to ditch him, get off the trail and go into a store. To my displeasure, he was waiting at the bike rack, having locked his scooter right next to mine so that I was forced to interact with him. As I pretended not to notice him and unlock my bike he greeted me, asked me my name. I flatly told him it was Bob. And proceeded to unlock. He told me I was beautiful. And then I looked him in the eyes with all the fire I possess and said firmly, “I noticed that you’ve been following me all the way from the trail. That’s a really scary thing to do and I don’t like it.” He looked genuinely scared, surprised, and ashamed. And said, “Oh. I’m sorry. Bye!” And then he basically ran away without his scooter. I’m not saying that always works but so far it has for me. Throughout my life, when I've had the courage, I’ve had similar conversations with men who were desperate for connection but going about it inappropriately. Each time, it’s ended like this.

I’ve also had more than my fair share of interactions with men who have spoken to me vulgarly or touched me without consent. Was I asking for it? Did I deserve it? Absolutely not. No one deserves to feel scared for just living their lives. But I think we're better off making a cultural shift than demonizing an entire gender.

There is a lacking in the way many boys and men are raised and treated that leads them into desperation.

Lacking Tools:

Many men grew up without the vocabulary or tools for recognizing and expressing their feelings. If they did happen to pick up these vital skills, many were and are still shamed for using them. There are certainly men who excel at expressing their emotions but they’re rarely celebrated or given the recognition they deserve.

When we verbally communicate our feelings, we’re indicating we have them. But many boys are taught that it’s “more manly” to pretend like they don’t. How do we expect boys and men to connect with and talk about the emotions they’ve been taught to ignore, suppress and pretend not to experience?

Lacking Affection:

Despite touch being one of the basic human needs, for most boys especially in Western culture, almost all the physical touch after about 6 yrs. old is aggressive even if it’s playful (noogies, wrestling, punching, slapping). The hugs, cuddles and kisses they receive from loved ones are often considered embarrassing so they are done quickly and privately, if at all. 

It’s culturally acceptable to be touched by your partner and I think this is why boys and men so fervently seek for romantic mates. And I also think that for those who are unable to attract a mate, this leaves them desperate for affection and more likely to be self-destructive and to engage in inappropriate sexual behavior and sexual aggression. They are more likely to behave like dangerous animals. 

I’ve met a lot of men who think anyone who makes eye-contact and smiles is sexually attracted. So when a man is in my vicinity, my options are to dehumanize him by ignoring his existence and scurry away or treat him like a fellow Earthling by acknowledging him and smiling at the risk of my own peril.

If I’m in a well-lit, public space, I tend towards the latter option. Personally, I like to give all people the benefit of the doubt that they don’t want to harm me. Not just for their comfort, but for mine. I don’t want to live my life scared of half the human population. I don’t want to limit my life by being afraid to go outside alone. I want to feel free to smile, dress, dance, openly express myself in all the ways my heart calls me to without fearing for my safety. I really don’t think that’s too much to ask. I’ve found when I treat people like I believe they are good humans they almost always rise to those expectations. Still, I’ve learned to be more cautious and slower to trust, but that’s not my nature. I lament having to develop this shield.

If we want a positive change in our culture— 

Openly talk about the perception we have of men and the culture that exists now.

Acknowledge that boys and men need affection too. With consent, give the boys and men in your bubble gentle, non-sexual physical touch. 

Encourage boys from a young age to connect with and express their wide-ranges of emotions and to practice impulse control.

Look into tools like Non-Violent Communication. They have resources that allow you to learn and talk about our wide-ranges of feelings and needs.

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