By Andrea Gunraj, VP Public Engagement, Canadian Women’s Foundation

What It Is

“Man or bear” is a hypothetical question social media users have posted on platforms like TikTok and X with the hashtag #manorbear and #manvsbear. They ask, “Would you rather encounter a man or a bear alone in the woods?” Sometimes with humor and often with social commentary, many users respond by saying they would prefer to encounter a bear.

Why It’s So Interesting

#Manorbear shows that safety is a gendered issue – and people are eager to talk about it.

Women and Two Spirit, trans, and nonbinary people choosing “bear” over “man” reveals to me that those at risk of gender-based violence feel unsafe in public spaces. They worry about sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking/criminal harassment, and intimate partner abuse.

They worry for good reason.

Rates of femicide have trended up in Canada. And even with greater awareness of the issues, sexual assault is the only violent crime not on a downward trend.

Those who have responded to “yes, bear” with disbelief or mockery also tells me that we need more recognition of gendered experiences of daily life. We need more acknowledgement of why those at high risk of abuse such as women with disabilities, Indigenous, Black, and racialized women, 2SLGBTQIA+ people, and women who are homeless feel so unsafe. And we need more action to build safety.

What I Remember

  • Survivors of abuse and those at high risk of gender-based violence continue to push for recognition and support. Most people in Canada know a woman who has been abused and most believe we all need to play a part in ending abuse, but 23% of people say, “intimate partner violence is none of my business if it doesn’t directly involve me.”
  • There’s a safety perception gap. We don’t get enough education or encouragement to appreciate how women and equity-seeking people experience public space. Perceptions of safety are still discussed in a way that misses how gender, race, sexuality, age, and more impacts us.
  • There’s more media and content about these underappreciated safety matters than ever. We can access, share, and act on them right away.

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