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by Todd Adams

It’s been a thought experiment for a couple of weeks now: a TikTok question that asks“Would you rather be stuck in a forest with a man or a bear?” With the majority of women answering, “bear.”  When my wife told me about this, my immediate reaction was one of defensiveness and sharing my belief that most men are good and the question itself was completely ridiculous.

After having some time to consider, what do I mean when I say most men are good? I instantly compare my belief of men to the worst-case scenarios—a scary man hiding in the bushes, ready to assault or rape an unsuspecting woman. From this viewpoint, most men are deemed “good” merely by not engaging in reprehensible behavior. This realization highlights the surprisingly low bar I’ve set for evaluating men.

For me, it’s not the question itself, but rather the response that many women out there would prefer to choose a bear instead of a man. This presents an opportunity for me to become curious about their perspective and examine my own defensiveness regarding the question. I asked myself: How have I been a source of fear and insecurity for women in my past? How have I stood by as a bystander instead of stepping in to intervene in a power differential between a man and a woman? As a younger man in college, how did I participate in the objectification of women?

One article I read, written by a man, stated that 80% of total homicide victims are boys or men, with women only accounting for one-tenth of all homicide victims. Is it just me, or did the author forget to include the sex of the perpetrators? Though I have no authority to speak for anybody else, I’m going to do it anyway.

In my experience, the male ego is often too fragile, and any sense of being attacked is met with defensiveness and an overreaction. I certainly have been defensive myself, and I know men are not accustomed to being questioned. We navigate a world systematically constructed for our benefit and success. Does this mean there are no challenges in being or trying to raise a man? Of course not. It’s tough being a human being, regardless of gender, and I don’t want to criticize men. I love and honor being a man, and I enjoy gathering with other men, like during a MenLiving Full House event where we focus on deep connection and full living. Simply put, if given the choice of which gender is better equipped to feel safe and thrive, I’ll choose being a man 10 times out of 10.

At MenLiving, one of the suggestions we offer for leading a more conscious life is to view the world through a lens of curiosity. I acknowledge that I need to work on this myself. If I could have a do-over with my wife, when she mentioned that so many women chose “bear”, I would have asked her to elaborate and then ask about her own experiences that led her to see “bear” as a preferable choice. Instead of assuming I was misunderstood, I would have listened to understand, recognizing that it’s not about me, but about women’s personal experiences. They may be trying to communicate something to us we don’t fully understand or see.

Engaging in this conversation, instead of just being offended and defending my position, would have been yet another opportunity for personal growth and connection. If you’re reading my words now and feeling defensive, perhaps wanting to explain how challenging it is to be a man, please share your thoughts in the comments below. Initially, I might react defensively, but hopefully, I’ll eventually approach it with curiosity. 😊

Resources on the topic:

  • I found this video
  • Cathy and I are hosting a MenLiving “Bear or Man discussion on Monday, May 20th that is open to all. We will discuss how to have difficult conversations and how to communicate in a curious and open-hearted way.
  • We discuss this topic on our ZPR podcast from last week. Click here to read my wife’s perspective about ‘man or bear’ on her most recent Substack post.

About Todd Adams

Executive Director • Board Member • Facilitator

For 30 years, Todd has been a leader in the construction industry. He is also a certified life and leadership coach for men. Since 2010, he and his wife have cohosted Zen Parenting Radio, a top-ten kids and family podcast.


  • I enjoyed your article BUT the neuroscientist/ biologist/ realist in me understands that defenses are a healthy and normal organismic response to a perceived threat. If the threat is real, whether it is emotional or physical attack, then the correct response is defensiveness. I encourage people to read psychology articles on what happens when defenses are removed or if people are treated like they’re defective/ shamed if they have them. I agree that it’s important to lower defenses to accept feedback from others (also mature and healthy) but if you really want people to listen to what you’re saying then you have to stop acting like a threat. If you can’t change your approach to decrease how you’re perceived, then it looks like your only intention is to inflict harm. Just my humble opinion.

  • Marti Beddoe says:

    Dear Todd,
    To speak candidly, when the MeToo movement took off a few years ago, I polled every female friend and family member, asking if they had ever been harassed, threatened, or physically violated by a man? 98% said yes! That is more common than most ‘good’ men realize.

    As a teenager, I came home disheveled and in a panic. My beloved and good father asked what had happened and when I told him about being forced to do what I did not want, he told me I should not have put myself in that position!
    The conditioning of the patriarchy is alive and well, unfortunately.

    I am grateful to MenLiving’s leadership for committing to changing the dark reality that a woman out in the woods would prefer to face down a bear than a man!

    With gratitude and respect for your willingness to be curious,
    Marti Hitzeman

  • Todd Adams says:

    Thank you Marti. Would love for you to join us on Monday night if you’re available…

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