Thursday, November 15, 2012

David Quinn - Voice of Irish Women?

Increasingly, when investigating a new Twitter account, I find it useful to start with a word cloud formed from the biographies of its followers. Take David Quinn's for instance. Those of you without laser enhanced vision may prefer to click the image for a larger view.

There is much I am sure he would welcome - Irish Catholic journalist are hardly words from which he would seek distance. Political, views, current affairs, Dublin and media all strike me as fair representations of his fans. I don't deny him his supporters.

But today I look with specific focus. David Quinn has been vocal on women's rights of late. Take his Independent column. Take his numerous tweets. I'm going to take a risk and assume he hasn't declined any media opportunities on the subject. It's clear that it is dear to him.

How important are men's voices in this discussion? While I would not leap to claim common DNA with Quinn I will grudgingly admit that we at least share the trait of possessing Y chromosomes. We men count, naturally: every citizen has the right to partake in the conversations that shape this country, but I can't help but remind myself that I do not have Fallopian tubes. I will not miscarry. I cannot die of easily preventable complications of pregnancy. I will never have to plead for necessary treatment. My doctor will not fear for their freedom when they choose a treatment in my best interest, nor will I have to travel abroad to get it. These overwhelming differences incline me to think that if my opinions on the matter are not well received by women I would do well to have a long hard think.

With that in mind, cast your eye back to the Twitter word cloud. Recall it's based on the biographies (two sentence summaries) of each individual who chooses to follow Quinn. Look at the prominence of husband (50 instances), father (54), man (43) and priest (32). Note how small wife (23) is, fewer than half the number of self-described husbands. See the absence of mother (16 instances, too few to warrant inclusion), woman (7) and Sister (6). This made me curious to the gender breakdown of his followers.

So I checked.

On the left are the top dozen names. I was able to determine gender based on first name for 1,845 of his 2,730 followers, which I consider a fair sample size:

  1. John
  2. Michael
  3. David
  4. Paul
  5. Brian
  6. Conor
  7. Tom
  8. Mark
  9. James
  10. Patrick
  11. Joe
  12. Mary
                      Also included is the obligatory pie chart, showing that women make up a towering 28% of his followers. This may be a mite disappointing for the chap. Quinn has invested considerable resolve ensuring his voice is heard on women's rights to access contraception, abortion, marriage and divorce. Perhaps now is the time to wonder why his target market seems to think so little of the energy he expands on their behalf?

                      If you're female, and you follow @DavQuinn, I'd love to hear why in the comments below.


                      pattimlin said...


                      Magi Gibson said...

                      I'm female, a mother, have had complications in labour, but lucky me, I live in Scotland. Here in the UK recently there's been much furore about the media's failure to seek out female experts to speak on female subjects. Great post!

                      @DeeBlake7 said...

                      That's very interesting. How do you do that word cloud thing or is that your trade secret?

                      I'm a woman and I block David Quinn on twitter because I think he comes from a tradition of men speaking about how they would like to dictate women's rights that have had more than their fair share of attention in this country and I don't need to see his tweets retweeted either.

                      Geoff said...

                      I use to make the wordclouds, pulling the text from Twitter is a programming thing - happy to do requests.

                      Thanks for the comment.


                      David Quinn's article in the Independent upsets me so does the diagram which shows his Twitter followers... Good post, by the way.

                      @viviancummins said...

                      Fascinating analysis of a Tweeter's followers but there is a lot more hidden in these statistics. David has a huge number of 'followers' who are not necessarily 'supporters' of his views (myself included). I believe that many of these followers are supporters of the exact opposite of virtually everything that David claims to stand for. As Sun Tzu advised "know your enemies".

                      @CecilExplorer said...

                      I follow David because I tend not to agree with him. I like to see what he is saying and call him out on it if I can. He is always an interesting read and it is good to keep up with what he is doing with Iona.

                      Unknown said...

                      Dave is that you? Very naughty.