Survey Says: Cats are Girls, Dogs are Boys

Fifty-six people have taken my quiz, and the answers match what I had predicted from the outset. In fact, majority opinion matches all the animals in the book. If I had more time and a good reason to do it, I'd survey a bunch of books to see what kind of gender biases farm animals are subjected to in the name of children's literature. Now let's analyze the results:

Pig: Three quarters of the responses were for male, one quarter for female. The book actually has two pigs and uses "they", so this won't match up. Pig is one that can kind of go both ways, but I generally think of pigs as being male. The Three Little Pigs are usually male, and so are Wilbur and Babe, so there's some strong cultural conditioning going on there.

Horse: The same split: three quarters were male, one quarter female. In the book, Horse is referred to as "he". As one commenter pointed out, horse and cow are often seen as a pair, and since cows are obviously female (except in one of the dumbest movies ever), horses must be male. Plus horses are strong, large, and generally not easily dominated. Definitely male.

Sheep: Nearly 90 percent voted for female; in the book, the sheep is a girl. Mr. Fob points out that sheep/goat is another common farm pair, and so the cuddly, docile sheep is female in contrast to the more manly, garbage-eating goat.

Goat: Nearly all the answers were for "male", and it's another match to the book. For some reason goats just seem more "manly" I guess. The Three Billy Goats Gruff are usually male; I guess girls just can't be "gruff".

Mouse: This one was more evenly split, with a slight majority going for male. In the book, Mouse is a boy. This one is hard because mice don't give many clues to gender either way.

Duck: Sixty-forty for male, and Duck in this case is a boy. Maybe because he's daring enough to ride a bike. I bet if I would have said "swan" the majority would say it was female, and that in contrast ducks are male. Swans are way more graceful than ducks, and we all know that the Ugly Duckling is a boy.

Cat: Eight-five percent said female, and the book agrees. Cats are sleek, pretty, dainty, and sneaky. Just like girls, right?

Dog: The closest one to a complete majority: ninety-six percent of respondents voted "male". I think this partly has to do with the fact that the word for "female dog" is generally avoided in polite company, and partly to do with the fact that dogs are boisterous, friendly, and messy.

I thought this was very interesting and I may do more surveys like it in the future. Like I said, it would be interesting to look at more books and see if they go with these gender breakdowns. I think this mostly shows up in animal groupings like in this particular book, but I thought it was fascinating how every time I heard the pronoun "he" for the horse or "she" for the cat, it just seemed to fit. Despite the fact that we know that all animals come in both genders. Except for goats and dogs.


Th. said…

Fascinating. But I disagree on your guess re:swans. But without a survey, who can say?
Anonymous said…
And, of course, goats are famous for their beards

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