Using Twitter to analyse attitudes towards female breathiness: implications for voice feminization therapy.
Objectives: The aims of the study were (a) to explore and analyse attitudes of Twitter users towards breathy voice quality in women, (b) evaluate implications of findings for male-to-female trans women undergoing voice therapy as part of transition, (c) evaluate the use of Twitter as a tool for research into perceptions of voice quality. Methods: The study design was a mixed methods content analysis of tweets. Targeted searches collected a corpus of tweets that contained the word(s) “breathy voice” and/or “breathiness”. 522 tweets were randomly selected to be analysed in two stages. The first stage of coding sorted tweets depending on whether they referred to breathiness in male voice, female voices, or this was unknown. The second stage used inductive coding to identify attitudes of Twitter users towards female breathiness. Results: Of 522 tweets, 43% discussed male breathiness, 35% female breathiness, and the remainder were unknown. Further analysis of 163 tweets about female breathiness found the following associated categories: Sexual = 28%; Annoying = 17%; Artificial 14%; Vocal issues = 13%; Positive reactions = 13%; Immature = 6%; Passive = 5%; Unintelligent = 3%; Natural = 1%. Conclusions: The study supports the use of Twitter analysis to measure attitudes towards breathy voice quality in women. More tweets discussed breathiness in males than females, although this may have been due to prolific tweeting from K-Pop fans concerning male breathiness. The identified themes are similar to those discussed in previous research, with the strongest association being intimacy and “sexiness”. The prevalence of negative connotations surrounding female breathiness is significant. The results of the study may be a useful contribution to the evidence base informing SLTs and trans women about how breathiness is perceived in females, although more research about the significance of breathiness in voice feminization is necessary.