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A woman standing next to a tree with an artificial bear behind her
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Editorial

Opinion: What the Bear Meme Is and Why It’s Stupid

Exploring the math behind the latest in modern feminist thought

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If readers are wondering why their social media feeds have become overwhelmed with bear-related content, this article will serve as an explanation of:

  1. What the Bear meme is
  2. Why it’s breathtakingly stupid
  3. Why it matters in the culture war

What the Bear Meme Is

The question is this: Would you be more scared of coming across a man or a bear in the woods? A number of female influencers, and a few male ones too, went viral on TikTok in late March for suggesting that the man would be more scary than the bear.

Many men, and a few women, responded to this trend by making fun of Team Bear. Some made memes and others ranted in confused frustration. Team Bear responded by calling Team Man a group of angry mansplaining incels who were missing the point. Team Man responded in turn that they weren’t angry, but laughing at Team Bear’s idiocy.

This continued for over a month until, at the beginning of May, the cancer spread to Twitter/X and Facebook. The trend has gone on a little less than a week and still has not let up.

Why It’s Breathtakingly Stupid

The controversy is an interesting case study in the way that men and women perceive danger, generally speaking. Women seem to avoid known dangers in favor of unknown dangers, with the emphasis being on avoiding even unlikely danger altogether. On the other hand, men tend to war-game various threat scenarios in mind-boggling detail.

With that said, Team Man is 100% correct. The more detail one goes into calculating the risk of man vs bear, the more the answer becomes completely obvious that an encounter with a random bear would be much more dangerous on average than one with a random man.

To put it simply: there is no man on earth who outmatches the average bear in capability for physical violence, running speed, talent for tracking and willingness to inflict unimaginable suffering on a human woman. Even a man armed with a knife, a gun, a modern main battle tank or an attack helicopter can be hidden from, even if not out-run or out-fought. The bear is both practically undefeatable and much more likely to initiate violence in a given encounter than a man is.

“At least I know what to expect from the bear” or “A bear might kill me, but a man could rape, torture and imprison me for years”

Let’s start with the risk factor of the average man – here’s a good statistical breakdown by Professor Heather D. Flowe. According to the best estimate we have (which, as a college convenience sample, has significant limits), roughly 6.4% of men are rapists; this includes violent stranger rapists, domestic abusers and opportunistic predators who take advantage of a conveniently incapacitated victim (such as a passed-out girl at a party). About 50% of rapes are likely committed by about a fifth of these, which would mean about 1% of the male population are dedicated sexual predators with victims numbering in the dozens or even hundreds.

These aren’t small numbers, by any means. It’s quite plausible that the average woman in the U.S. will run into at least one rapist in a typical day and know at least one serial predator in her social network. Women’s fear of sexually violent men is entirely justified, even if the vast majority are harmless.

Now let’s move beyond sexual violence: roughly 157,000 Americans were incarcerated for murder or non-negligent homicide in 2020. Roughly 14% of murderers are women, so that leaves 135,084 male murderers. Considering the nationwide clearance rate for murder is 52.3%, we can high-ball estimate that there are 258,287 male murderers in the United States representing 0.159% of the male population.

Let’s move on to serial killers capable of the worst possible brutality, who Team Bear say they’re most afraid of: the FBI estimates that there are 25-50 serial killers active in the U.S. at any given time. That’s a rate of less than one in three million at most, even lumping in the not-inconsiderable number of serial killers who exclusively target men.

So a random man is 6.4% likely to be sexually aggressive, 1% likely to be a serial sexual predator, 0.159% likely to be a murderer and has a less than one in three million chance of being a serial killer.

However, the math doesn’t end there. The prompt specifies “in the woods”, while the majority of rapists and murderers are concentrated in big cities and “blighted” areas. The best estimate we have of the risks of being “in the woods” are the crime statistics for the Appalachian Trail: which sees roughly one rape per three years and one murder per four years, with a total Trail hiker population of 3 million per year. Considering that the US has a national homicide rate of 6.4 and “the woods” has a homicide rate of 0.87, the risk factor is about 13.59% the national average. This makes the Appalachian Trial easily safer – in crime terms – than any large city in the U.S., slightly safer than Irvine, CA.

So the estimated risk of a random man “in the woods” being a rapist are 0.87% (one in 115), a serial rapist 0.1359% (one in 736), a murderer 0.0216% (one in 4,629) and a serial killer one in 22 million. Note that these aren’t even a guarantee that they would actually rape or murder a woman alone in the woods, just that they’d be prepared to do so. Notably, only two known serial killers in U.S. history have ever specifically targeted hikers. This makes sense because hikers make very unappealing victims: they tend to be armed, skilled and strong-willed; furthermore people tend to notice when they disappear; when they do disappear, search parties of professional rangers hunt for them using dogs and helicopters. Serial killers much prefer to target more vulnerable populations like prostitutes, runaways and gay men.

On the other hand, 100% of bears will have no qualms about maiming, killing and eating a woman. Worse, while cougars, jaguars, tigers, lions and hippos will generally kill their prey almost instantly, bears prefer to slowly eat their prey alive.

“When you’re eaten by a bear, they’re very different from other predators, in that a lion or a tiger or a big cat is going to dispatch their prey and bite through the windpipe or do something to kill it, so they can then drag it somewhere to consume it safely,” bear biologist Wesley Larson told Backpacker.com. “A bear doesn’t do that; a bear will literally sit on you and eat you. Often these people die by bleeding out, and it takes a long time. It’s 10 to 15 minutes of this bear sitting on you eating you alive, not ripping out necessary organs or something to kill you. Sometimes you luck out, and the bear kills you quickly.”

It took at least six minutes of being eaten alive for “Grizzly Man” Timothy Treadwell to die, and it’s unclear how long his girlfriend Amie Huguenard suffered after being slowly dragged away by the bear that killed him. Legendarily ice-blooded German documentarian Werner Herzog – who had previously filmed in the Amazon, Siberia and Gulf War Kuwait – described listening to the recording of their deaths as “the most terrifying thing I’ve ever heard in my life” and immediately urged the owner to destroy the only copy, a reaction he later regretted, attributing it to shock.

Even worse was the experience of a Russian teenager Olga Moskalyova, who gave a detailed hour-long narration of her slow, agonizing death to the claws of an East Siberian brown bear and her three cubs in a series of voicemails to her mother:

She screamed: ‘Mum, the bear is eating me! Mum, it’s such agony. Mum, help!’

[…]

In a second call, a weak Olga gasped: ‘Mum, the bears are back. She came back and brought her three babies. They’re… eating me.’

[…]

Finally, in her last call – almost an hour after the first – Olga sensed she was on the verge of death.

With the bears having apparently left her to die, she said: ‘Mum, it’s not hurting any more. I don’t feel the pain. Forgive me for everything, I love you so much.’

Without knowing how many encounters American women have with bears per year, it’s impossible to estimate what percentage of them turn violent. The risk factors involve not just the species of the bear, but the presence of cubs or valuable carcasses as well as the time of the year. The scent of fresh blood and screams of pain also attract bears.

Regardless, it is safe to say that American women have hundreds of millions of non-violent interactions with men per day, but far fewer interactions with bears. It is also certain is that every single bear is capable of more cruelty to a human woman than all but the most depraved men. The odds that a random man in the woods could be even capable of inflicting as much suffering on a woman than the average bear is one in tens of millions.

“A bear can be reasoned with… there are protocols like waving your arms or punching them in the nose”

Without getting into a detailed dissertation about different species of bears, this is generally good advice for black bears and terrible advice for brown bears. Anecdotally, it seems like a lot of Team Bear women who tout the safety of their bear encounters live in black bear country, while many incredulous Team Man women live in grizzly country.

Black bears have rarely been known to attack humans and livestock, but are notoriously skittish and have repeatedly gone viral for running in terror from house cats. Brown bears, on the other hand, will more likely respond to attempts at physical intimidation or violence with increased aggression.

Wildlife biologist and bear expert Tom Smith documented 89 attempts by humans to fistfight grizzly bears, with just three successes for a success rate of 3.37%. He recommends that the best defense against a brown bear is to play dead. Even so, that’s not a guarantee of success. With a bear’s heightened senses, humans have virtually no chance of successfully convincing them that they’re actually dead and therefore an unappetizing meal. The reason why playing dead is successful is that most brown bear attacks are defensive responses, so playing dead may convince them that you aren’t a threat. However, if the bear is attacking because it’s hungry (particularly if it’s late in the season and they’re fattening for hibernation), then an unarmed human’s odds of survival go down to practically zero.

The old hiker’s adage goes: “If it’s black, fight back. If it’s brown, lay down. If it’s white, say goodnight.” The last line refers to polar bears, an encounter with whom it is practically impossible to survive.

The only weakness a bear has is its extremely keen sense of smell, which can be overwhelmed with bear-grade pepper spray (a.k.a. “bear mace”, after the popular Mace brand). In the most recent study of bear spray during bear attacks in Alaska by the University of Calgary’s grizzly bear expert Stephen Herrero, he and his team found that the use of bear spray during bear encounters was effective in preventing injuries from 100% of black bears and 100% of polar bears but only 94% of grizzly bears. “Red pepper spray stopped bears’ undesirable behavior 92% of the time when used on brown bears, 90% for black bears, and 100% for polar bears.” A subsequent Herrero study found that firearms of all types and calibers were much less effective than bear spray against all bears.

So, even if a hypothetical woman were to choose between man and bear while also carrying bear spray, the likelihood that she would suffer injury or death from a random bear still would be substantially higher than from the man who – as established before – would have a less than 1% chance of being remotely dangerous.

“If you don’t get the point of the bear meme, then you’re the reason why we choose the bear”

If they mean “men who are not sensitive to women’s fears”, that’s fairly straightforward and defensible; if the problem is women’s emotional fear rather than women’s practical safety, then men who do not take women’s emotional complaints about safety seriously arguably heighten their level of fear. Men reassuring women that the average man is likely to be safe, no matter how true, isn’t reassuring because the suggestion denies their fears instead of assuaging them.

If they mean “men who are dangerous”, then that’s the polar opposite of the truth. There’s a widespread assumption among Left-feminists that sexual violence is perpetrated largely by political conservatives and anti-feminists. It’s probably a comforting thought to them, but it’s not remotely true.

The vast majority of felons – and presumably violent felons – do not register to vote if given the opportunity. While the remainder disproportionately register as Democrats, the relevant scholarship suggests that’s mostly due to racial factors, so it’s safe to assume that sexual predators are generally apolitical. As for anti-feminism, anecdotal evidence suggests that rapists are well-represented in the feminist movement.

Naturally, sexual predators are generally misogynists. A 16-year study with convicted rapists at the Connecticut Correctional Institute describes them as generally loners with low self-esteem who almost always escalate over time from voyeuristic activity to violence. The other relevant criminology research suggests that the three factors which best characterize rapists are: a lack of empathy, narcissism and hostility towards women.

“Great!” Team Bear might say. “Team Man is showing hostility to women and lack empathy, which fits squarely in the profile! They’re also posting memes on the internet, so they’re probably narcissistic loners with low self-esteem too!”

Not so fast! According to another study published in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, the primary overriding concern of the serial rapists who commit the majority of rapes is ensuring access to victims. That means men like Jeffrey Marsalis, who allegedly raped hundreds of women, and Reynhard Sinaga, who was convicted of raping over 100 men. Marsalis had no history of conservative political activism, while Sinaga was an openly gay academic working on an a PhD dissertation on the intersection of immigration issues and gender theory.

Their common denominator: trust. Their modus operandi was to use deception to gain the trust of their victims, use drugs to incapacitate them and then rape them in their homes. Marsalis told women outlandish stories about being a doctor, an astronaut or even a CIA agent, in order to convince them that he was a highly eligible bachelor. Sinaga targeted drunk heterosexual men outside of bars – many of whom had been kicked out or were stranded – to suggest that they sleep it off or have a few more drinks back at his place.

So “men who disagree with you on the internet” are not a demographic that bears particular scrutiny. Quite the contrary, as at least 50% of the risk factor comes from men who would have no qualms about joining Team Bear to gain women’s trust.

“There have only been X bear attacks in American history, but over nine thousand gorillion man attacks”

Considering that about 50% of rapes will be committed by psychopaths like Marsalis and Sinaga – for whom sexual predation is a hobby they invest substantial time, effort and resources into – women can reduce their odds of rape by half if they practice vigilance around men who:

  1. Claim to be high status individuals, such as doctors, lawyers or astronauts
  2. Attempt to maneuver them into vulnerable situations, particularly inviting them into their homes on a first or second meeting.

Women can reduce their risk of all abuse further by watching for Dark Triad traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. In other words, men who are highly self-involved and egotistical; manipulative and morally bankrupt; and/or selfish, callous, impulsive and remorseless.

One would think that people intensely concerned with women’s safety would be dedicated to spreading awareness of these risk factors but, unfortunately, that’s not the case. This is especially tragic given that women on average are more attracted to men with Dark Triad traits.

The reality is that the reason why bear-on-woman attacks are so rare is because our society is designed to keep women safe from bears. The real question: Why – in the aftermath of the Sexual Revolution – isn’t our society designed to women safe from men? Which is a perfect segue into the political and cultural ramifications of this extremely stupid meme.

Why It Matters in the Culture War

Someone without an understanding of radical feminist theory will miss about half of the subtext of the bear meme. While the majority of people sharing it on either side undoubtedly have no idea, the conversation surrounding it undoubtedly has radical feminist undertones.

Let’s break it down: Team Bear believes that the threat of the average man is greater than the threat of the average bear. They believe that men who insist otherwise are a perfect example of why they choose the bear. Some – especially male feminists – specify further that men in general should “apologize” for their role in creating an environment of fear for women and promise to “do better”.

To a lot of Team Man members, this is mystifying. What does it look like to “do better”? What do apologies from men who have zero history or intent of harming a woman in their lives do to actually make women safer? Men like Jeffrey Marsalis and Reynhard Sinaga aren’t going to alter their behavior if nonviolent men alter their behavior to make women less afraid; if anything lessened women’s fear would make them even more vulnerable and appetizing as victims.

In an interesting intersection between radical feminism and civil rights activism that vanishingly few people have mentioned, the meme also takes on an entirely different and offensive context if directed at black or Hispanic men.

“You scare me more than a dangerous animal, so you need to apologize for being scary and change your behavior,” may come across as fairly innocuous when directed at a white man, but would net most people a one-way ticket to HR if directed at a black man.

So what’s the point of all this? What are they trying to communicate?

They’re trying to communicate radical feminism. This does not mean “feminists who are extreme”; radical feminism is a political – bordering on religious – ideology with over half a century of intense exploration in academic literature. It is a Marxian discipline, meaning that it is not explicitly Marxist in the Leninist tradition but draws on the Marxist intellectual tradition of deconstruction and dialectics (terms which one doesn’t need to understand to get the general idea).

Without getting bogged down into discussing them, there are various denominations of radical feminism such as black feminism, intersectional feminism, sex-positive feminism, trans-exclusionary radical feminism, gender feminism etc.

They each have different quasi-theological nuances, with a lot of overlap between sub-groups, but these are the core tenets which radical feminists as a whole believe:

  1. The most fundamental evil in the world is woman’s oppression by man, so all other evils – slavery, racism, capitalism etc. – are the fruits of this original sin.
  2. Individual men do not rape or abuse individual women for individual reasons. ALL men rape and abuse ALL women collectively to suppress their agency, as well as preserve male privilege. Even the most well-meaning men who do not individually abuse women both benefit from and actively propagate oppression through rape culture.
  3. The collective will of male evil is the Patriarchy, a psychic font from which all oppression and inequality flows.
  4. Social justice – a perfectly egalitarian utopia with liberation and without oppression – can therefore only be achieved by deconstructing the concept of gender itself and abolishing the gender binary.
  5. All masculinity is toxic masculinity, because it flows from Patriarchy. Therefore “healthy masculinity” must be defined as a rejection of all social norms associated with gender.
  6. The primary duty of a feminist is to Listen and Believe other women sharing their lived experiences, especially when they concern sexual violence and even more so when they are contradicted by objective facts. Logic and objectivity are illusions cultivated by the Patriarchy to enforce the hegemony of systematic oppression such as white supremacy.
  7. Attempts to actually reduce rape by improving women’s safety are rape apologism and attempts to give women the tools to reduce their risks are victim blaming, because they do not address the root problem: toxic masculinity and Patriarchy.
  8. If anything, reducing sexual violence risks strengthening the Patriarchy by removing from women a reminder of their oppression which motivates them towards liberation. Some feminists even maintain that ALL heterosexual relations are rape, because women do not have enough agency under Patriarchy to express consent.

This may surprise readers, but all of the bolded terms above are radical feminist buzzwords (about half directly copy-pasted from Marxism) and seeing them in a discussion is a radioactive red flag that there’s a hidden subtext most people are missing. Just be thankful that I spent four years reading radical feminist indoctrination in college so you don’t have to.

In short: the real message of Team Bear is that women should choose the bear because men are irredeemably evil, and the only way for men to absolve their sin is to renounce masculinity; to “apologize” and “do better”. The fact that this bears – no pun intended – no relation at all to making any woman’s life safer in practice is a feature, not a bug.

To a radical feminist, the bear meme is an ultimate expression of their ideology: it hijacks women’s very real, justified fear about the one in sixteen men who are rapists and channels it into a collective attack on masculinity itself, dividing the two groups to ultimately deconstruct gender.

The only proper response for someone who isn’t a member of the cult: choose Team Man, teach your daughters about Dark Triad traits and unapologetically protect vulnerable women whenever possible.

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A.J. Cooke
Written By

A.J. Cooke is Cuban-American freelance journalist and ghostwriter based in Northern Virginia. He grew up in Japan, Malaysia and Portugal. His father, Don Cooke, was one of the 1979 Iran Hostages and his grandfather, the late Ambassador Diego Asencio, was held hostage by M-19 guerrillas in the 1980 Bogota Embassy Siege. A veteran political campaigner, fundraiser and ghostwriter, Cooke writes mostly political news with a focus on data science and legal analysis.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Eat C

    May 12, 2024 at 2:59 pm

    You’re in one of my fb groups and you keep saying that all this effort is just to laugh at feminists. Then you write this article and share it in that group to further show how funny I guess you think it is but this time you take it seriously. Imagine someone saying “I’d rather die than go to work right now” and you have the idiocy to write PARAGRAPHS about how dying is not all it’s cracked up to be didn’t you know dying is really bad and you’re putting all jobs into one stereotype and that’s not nice jobs give you money and are nice it’s because feminism has gone wild I’M A NICE GUY!

    Imagine a rape victim comes to talk to you and you say WELL NOT ALL MEN ARE LIKE THAT and then you start ranting off statistics like this. It’s like you’re so calculating at defending things you took personally that you’ve developed sociopathy.

  2. Avatar

    Bear Back Buddy

    May 16, 2024 at 9:24 pm

    I have no problem feeding women to bears. There is way too many of them and they are eating all the food. It would be fun to ride on the back of a bear and meet women in the woods that way. My what predicament!!

  3. Avatar

    Johnny B

    May 16, 2024 at 11:17 pm

    To the woman that is afraid of rape, torture, and imprisonment; That’s called marriage, and if you do it right it will be wonderful…

  4. Avatar

    Lawrence M

    May 17, 2024 at 6:59 am

    These feminist puke for brains just want to be stronger than men which they are not and won’t ever be so they go on their insane rants or tirades about how evil men are, when it’s these witches that are evil and have practically destroyed womanhood for most true genuine feminine women or Ladies, and who now are pointing their stinking fingers at men and saying it’s all your fault!

    Zero accountability is where we’re at for what has screwed up society, and the full blame is on “Feminists” (deranged, jealous and evil) who hated real men like John Wayne type characters or even an Audie Murphy in the real world, who went off to fight all of the sick wars in this crazy world and protected their asses from the real evil foes in it! But now in the modern hi-tech world these witches get to throw their weight around and be a “Hillary Insane Feminist Bitch” and think they should rule the world now!

    It’s not going to happen and now that they flipped the whole American paradigm with their madness “the real enemies are closing in” to take over America! And just wait and see what those genuine enemies and devils do to all women especially feminists when they get their hands on them! Feminists you asked for it, now you’re going to get it; and thanks for ruining the Country that was the best one in history!

    By the way the fall in the Garden of Eden came about in the same way when the father of all lies got eve all caught up in “not seeing the forest for the trees” and tempting Adam to screw up big time!

    1 Corinthians 11:8–9 — New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (NASB95)
    8 “For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man;
    9 for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.”

    But of course pagan or atheistic persons would reject this order, set-up by God, just like Lucifer did to defy the Creator! Pretty stupid isn’t it, to tell off God!

    • Avatar

      Lawrence M

      May 26, 2024 at 4:23 pm

      I want to add that male chauvinist pigs did much damage over the ages too! Men should be gentlemen and yes protecting women, family and taking on the tough dirty jobs to do it is part of the responsibility!

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