Really Simple Surveys: Sows, Queens, Hens, and Vixens #MRX

Welcome to Really Simple Surveys (RSS), the younger sibling of Really Simple Statistics. There are lots of places online where you can ponder over the minute details of complicated survey designs but very few places that make survey design quickly understandable to everyone. I won’t explain exceptions to the rule or special cases here. Let’s just get comfortable with the fundamentals.

What is a female

As defined in the most esteemed wikipedia, female is the sex of an organism which produces non-mobile ova. And, according to, it is an adjective to represent pertaining to being a female animal or plant.


And to illustrate, here are the female names of a few common animals.
Bear: Sow
Cat: Queen
Chicken: Hen
Fox: Vixen
Human: Woman
Rabbit: Doe
Swine: Sow
Whale: Cow

What does this have to do with surveys?

Well, let’s think about the very first question appearing in most surveys.
Are you a male or a female?

It always makes me say – am I a female what? A female frog? A female elephant? Now do you feel like correcting that question? How about we simply change it to:
Are you a man or a woman?

It seems like a little thing, but when you add up all the little things over a long survey, what you really have is a very long, very badly written survey. This is one error you don’t need to make.


One response

  1. Great post Annie! It’s good to question why we continuously copy questions’ from the same survey mold. I think both survey creators and survey respondents simple get comfortable with the ‘standard’ male/female questions. I think it’d be great to further your idea and ask the standard question, “Are you a male or female ?” and on the following page ask, “We see you have identified yourself as a female, a female what ?” Maybe leave it open ended and see what sort of answers you would get out of the respondents – I bet it would be interesting. 🙂

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