The patriarchy is everywhere, including our Twitter feeds.
British author Joan Smith has a new book out this month that analyzes the last 25 years from a women’s rights perspective. The Public Woman covers one uncharted territory Smith’s 1989 book Misogynies couldn’t have predicted as a battleground for gender equality: social media.
Smith and Swedish equal opportunities organization Crossing Boarders started an interactive online experiment with the book’s release: Twee-Q, shortened from “Twitter Equality Quotient,” determines gender bias by analyzing a Twitter handle’s last 100 tweets. A number 1-10 is assigned based on the proportion of retweets from men vs. women, with 10 as a perfect score.
More than 42,000 handles have been tested, and the average Twee-Q is 4.8 — a major bias in men’s favor. This must mean that more men than women are using Twitter, right?
Just the opposite: Social media monitoring platform Beevolve and data from Online MBA show that anywhere from 53-59% of Twitter users are women. Women tweet more frequently as well. Four of the top five followed celebrity tweeters are women (Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Taylor Swift), though Justin Bieber holds the No. 1 slot, according to social media tracking company Socialbakers. In fact, of the top 10 non-company Twitter accounts, seven are women, with only President Obama and Justin Timberlake joining Bieber, according to twitaholic.
So what gives? Why are more men retweeted than women? Twee-Q puts it this way:
"What if the core of the conversation is unequal? What if we rather listen to, acknowledge and pass on opinions or thoughts from a particular gender? Simply put: what if we generally evaluate the arguments of a particular sex higher, perhaps without even knowing it ourselves? Well, in that case the conversations are broken."
If our conversations are broken, how do we fix them? In s recent editorial in the Guardian, Smith asserts that, “none of the big issues has gone away since I began writing Misogynies a quarter of a century ago.” Feminism is being revived to match the women it serves, from online petitions to drop sexist rappers from product endorsement deals, to recording locations of sexual assault in Syria on Google Maps.
The internet is a tool for the better, Smith says, even 140 characters at a time.