Risk perception, or why women are choosing bears

Now that the party has somewhat died down around the recent social media phenomenon of women saying they’d rather run into a bear in the wild than a random man, let’s look into why this is a symptom of a much greater problem in society.

And what is that problem? Risk perception and assessment.

In short, “I’d pick the bear” is another demonstration that people are really, really bad at understanding and perceiving risk, let alone assessing it. I said such in the comment on this video by The Prim Reaper:

My opinion on this whole matter is it’s also a symptom of a greater problem regarding risk assessment and perception. It goes beyond a woman’s perceptions of how much in danger she might be at any given time. That any woman would suggest she’s safer with any random bear as opposed to any random man means that those women really have absolutely no idea how to assess risk.

And it’s a problem not just with this. As we saw during COVID, people can be scared into complying with some very draconian laws and regulations all in the name of “safety” because they don’t understand how to evaluate risk. And I see the same in plenty of other circles as well.

First, let’s get this out of the way. Women, if you think you’re safer with a bear than with a man, you are demonstrably insane, completely out of touch with reality. While your absolute risk of being attacked by a bear is very, very remote, that is only because the likelihood you’ll actually encounter a bear in the wild is also very, very remote. Even if you regularly walk trails where bears live, the chance you’ll encounter a bear is remote.

And even if you did encounter a bear in the wild, what is the likelihood it’ll attack you? That depends on quite a few variables, one being how recently it ate. And if the bear you’re encountering is a cub… well your risk of getting attacked just went through the roof.

Whereas women encounter men all. the. time. Since, you know, we’re half the population. Yet the absolute risk any woman will be attacked by any man is actually fairly remote. And I mean genuine crimes here, not the crime of a man merely looking at a woman.

But how can you assess that risk? There’s a LOT of bad data out there, with everything condensed down to aggregate statistics that remove any nuance, however slight, making it largely not possible for the most part. And it’s nuance that’s needed to properly assess risk – such as the nuance that you have to actually encounter a bear to even have a risk it’ll attack you.

Sure in every major city there are regions therein where you likely shouldn’t go, where doing so will all but invite a higher risk you’ll become a victim of some crime or the need to defend yourself. And those areas tend to be readily apparent just by looking at them.

That doesn’t mean your risk of being victimized isn’t zero outside those areas. But your risk does drop substantially. Aggregate statistics, though, can make the opposite look true. And even within those areas, your risk of becoming a crime victim depends on details – i.e. nuances – that aggregate statistics leave out.

But if anything showed just how bad we are with risk assessment, along with acting like aggregate statistics actually mean anything more than just being an aggregate of something, that would easily be the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rather than try to enumerate all the things that went wrong, I’ll just give you Bill Maher’s “New Rule” segment from April 2022:

But there are plenty of areas in which we basically strap the entire idea of risk assessment and evaluation onto a rocket and launch it on a one-way trip away from Earth as if it was Voyager III.

It leads to the question of why people are so paranoid. Why has the idea of our risk perception and assessment become, largely, that if the risk isn’t zero it’s all-but-guaranteed to happen?

Simple: media hype.

Not just news media, mind you. Over the last 20 years, more and more people have been informing their worldviews online instead of through what has been called “traditional media”. And through “independent media” as it’s been called, narratives matter more than the truth. Which is why that’s now become the case with “traditional media”.

Because reality is boring. Scaring the shit out of people drives ad revenue.

And it’s through online content consumption that notions like this are perpetually reinforced despite not being true in the least:

And the narrative that women can’t walk out of their homes without fear of being raped is pervasive in modern society to the point where women feel they’re safer with bears than a random man.

Let’s not forget about “Schrodinger’s rapist”. This presented the idea to women that it was basically a coin flip of whether any random man would rape her. Remember the discredited “1 in 5 women will experience sexual assault” statistic? Apparently that has been upgraded to “over half of all women”. No, seriously:

The source being cited with those entries in the 2016/2017 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, which doesn’t say “Over half of women and almost one in three men have experienced sexual violence…” Instead it’s 1 in 5 women who have allegedly suffered sexual violence. And even that number is likely drastically overstating reality since it makes it sound like the United States is worse than some of the worst countries in the world and gives the impression that women literally cannot live anywhere without fear of someone raping them…

A corollary to this is “stranger danger”. Despite the fact the vast majority of child abductions are custody related, there’s still this pervasive myth that your children are always in danger of being abducted unless you’re watching over them every moment of every day. And mothers, in particular, are suffering the brunt of this since mothers are more likely to be castigated by the public or arrested by the police for taking their eyes of their kids for a moment.

And the helicopter parenting spurned on by the “stranger danger” phenomenon has led to some impaired outcomes with kids. It’s probably more destructive than absent fathers since helicopter parenting impairs a youth’s chance to increasingly assert their independence as they get older and reach adulthood.

Despite the fact that fatal interactions of blacks with police are extremely rare – No, seriously, they are extremely rare – paranoia runs rampant due to the over-hype of the media of incidents like the Philando Castile shooting, Eric Garner’s death, and the Michael Brown shooting.

Turns out that what drastically increases your risk of being killed by a police officer is violently resisting arrest or presenting a weapon. Same with shooting at police, such as the case of Dexter Reed when he emptied a magazine shooting at them. If you’re calm and cool in your interactions with police, regardless of your skin color, everything should go smoothly.

Statistics prove time and again that a public school is the safest place for a child to be, safer than being at home or being transported between home and school. Yet the anti-gun left has regularly called public schools “shooting ranges”. And the media over-hypes the notion as well by making it sound like it’s only inevitable that a mass shooting will happen at every school in the United States with bullshit like this:

There isn’t a standardized definition of a “school shooting”, which allows anti-gun groups to overinflate the numbers such that any shooting that occurs on or even nearby any school campus is counted, regardless of whether students were even in danger. Someone commits suicide in a school parking lot in the middle of the night? School shooting…

Again, scaring the shit out of people drives ad revenue.

In all seriousness, the risk that any children will be caught up in a school shooting scenario is so low that it really shouldn’t be scaring anyone. The Columbine-style spree shootings on school campuses is so unlikely an event that the Mother Jones spreadsheet that tracks spree shootings with 3 or more deaths includes, as of this writing, only 23 school events since 1982. About one every other year. Our schools are definitely not “shooting ranges”. And your kids are far, far more likely to die being transferred to and from school, especially if they are not being transported in a bus.

And the same with mass shootings. There is no standardized definition of “mass shooting” either, allowing for drastically inflated numbers to be reported. Something even Mother Jones, who is far from a right-wing publication, has called out. And a very striking omission from the Mother Jones spreadsheet is the 2024 Kansas City Super Bowl parade shooting in which only one (1) person was killed.

Vaccines are easily the best advance in public health ever, even more so than the discovery of antibiotics, allowing us to end the scourge of smallpox and polio – though polio is not quite completely extinct in the wild. Yet vaccine injuries and the discredited vaccine/autism link are continually proliferated by anti-vaxxers. Not COVID vaccine skeptics, mind you, because the COVID “vaccine” wasn’t actually a vaccine, but people who take something merely being called a vaccine as if you’re injecting autism into kids.

And on that front is also the people drastically overstating the risk to public health by those who don’t vaccinate. The TV show “House” helped that along by stopping short of outright stating that a mother who doesn’t vaccinate her child is condemning the child to a very early death. Despite the fact your risk of contracting any vaccine-preventable illness in any developed nation is… remote. Influenza is an obvious exception. And same with measles unless you’re in North America.

And contracting one is also not the death sentence it once was, at least in developed nations. Diphtheria outbreaks once wiped out households. Now we can treat it with antibiotics.

Being anti-vaccine is definitely a luxury, a privilege of living in a developed nation because vaccines have wiped out most of the greatest threats to public health. But the same can’t be said about handwashing. COVID brought this to the forefront. But as Bill Maher says in the above segment, people were taking it too far.

Because people were so afraid of COVID that they thought contracting it meant, at the least, a coin flip on whether they would be hospitalized, and probably another coin flip on whether they’d survive it.

Again, reality is boring. Scaring the shit out of people drives ad revenue.

And so we have women believing they’re safer with bears. Sorry, ladies, but you’re not Goldie O’Gilt.