Would you rather be stuck in a forest with a man or a bear? Unpacking our viral TikTok video

By Charlie Sawyer

Updated May 1, 2024 at 12:03 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

On 10 April 2024, SCREENSHOT went out onto the streets of London and asked passersby one simple question: would you rather be stuck in the forest with a man or a bear? Simple on the surface, but the answers—and indeed the entire internet’s reaction to those responses—reveal exactly what it means to be a woman in today’s society.

Out of all the women featured in that video, everyone, except for one individual, immediately chose the bear. It wasn’t even a case of weighing up the options, a majority of these women had one instinctive response: “Men are scary,” “100% a bear, which is terrifying to say,” “definitely a bear, some men are very scary out there.” These were just some of the responses we heard, and it paints a very clear picture.

@screenshothq

The question of being stuck in a forest with a man or a bear is circulating on TikTok right now and sparking some interesting conversation.... we know what our answer would be 🐻🌳 #manvsbear #tiktok #tiktoktrend #trending #challenge #streetinterview #voxpop

♬ Terror Music (Scary Song) - IMPERIUM RECORDS

Within days, our TikTok video amassed over 14 million views, two million likes, almost 90,000 saves, and an incredible 65,000 comments. And I think it’s safe to say that this hypothetical scenario has prompted a much bigger and broader discussion about both the realities of male violence and indeed the issues that still exist when it comes to addressing and confronting this societal issue.

The ‘bear question’, as it’s now being referred to on social media, has become a viral conversation, with a number of different TikTok creators making their own videos addressing the conversation. In fact, some creators have even pushed the concept further, asking their male partners what their choice would be if their daughter were left in the woods alone:

@liliannawilde

the lightbulb that goes off in his brain when he realizes that the safer choice is bear… @Sean Kolar asking my husband the man or bear in the woods question #manorbear #manvsbear #greenflag #husband #husbandwife

♬ original sound - Lilianna Wilde
@thearndtfamily

Thats crazy that other men feel like way.. #manorbear #husband #married #fyp

♬ original sound - TheArndtFamily
@jon.the.detective

Man or bear a detective’s perspective. Team Bear. #fyp #manvsbear #woods #bearman

♬ original sound - Jon.The.Detective

Moreover, the comment sections below videos addressing this topic speak volumes and shine a horrifying light on the daily lived experiences of women:

@dontceceme

I can’t get over these #comments #relatable #feminist #bears #fyp #foryou

♬ original sound - cece

Some men, of course, have not reacted well to this ongoing conversation, seeing it as a deliberate attack on an entire gender. And some quite literally just did not understand the point of the question whatsoever:

@alecanewman

Stitch with @Amanda Sharp My mom’s Reddit iAMA is essential reading.

♬ original sound - Alecanewman
@peezyante

can we wrap this debate up by wednesday bro im begging yall 😂🙏🏾 #fyp #peezyante #storytime

♬ original sound - Peezyante

I find it frustrating that these men aren’t understanding or attempting to recognise the reasoning behind a question such as this existing in the first place. No one is suggesting that a bear is a preferable companion, what they’re emphasising is that young girls have been warned of the dangers of men for decades.

According to the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), a woman is killed by a man every three days in the UK. Indeed, domestic abuse makes up 18 per cent of all recorded crimes in England and Wales. In the UK, one in four women have been raped or sexually abused as an adult. This is not to say that men are the sole perpetrators of sexual violence, but it has been statistically proven that men are more often than not at fault.

The purpose of this question is to shock people, it’s to remind all of us that there is still so much work to be done when it comes to educating boys and men and stopping these cycles of violence. It’s the men who recognise this that are part of the solution.

The internet can be a powerful tool for change, and while legislation and definitive action are much more important and necessary when it comes to targeting this gigantic societal problem, it’s also wild to see how much impact one little TikTok can have.

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