In a picture book ironically titled “Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer,” readers are invited into the iconic character’s kitchen, where she sits at the table working on a game she’s creating to teach kids how computers work.
Enter Barber’s younger sister, Skipper, who loves the idea of the cute robot puppies she’s developing, and asks if she can give the game a spin.
“I’m only creating the design ideas,” Barbie says, laughing. “I’ll need Steven’s and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game!”
Seriously? Six sentences into the story, and Barbie has already decided she needs a white knight to rescue her.
In case you thought this was a set-up for some kind of redemptive ending, it gets worse. Barbie then tries to email her design ideas to Steven when her screen goes flickers. Skipper points out that Barbie’s computer has a virus and then Barbie promptly crashes Skipper’s laptop as well which causes Skipper to lose her homework. Big sis then takes off for school, where she finds herself in computer class asking about what to do about viruses.
After school, Barbie meets up with Steven for more tech advice and he says:
“It will go faster if Brian and I help.”
Yup. Basically he’s like, “Step aside, Barbie. You can’t handle this. Take all that hard programming stuff to the boys who will just do it for you.”
Barbie then presents her sister with the lost files, taking 100% of the credit for the fix.
Anyone working in the male dominated field of computer programming knows that this is exactly the kind of stereotype that cause girls to veer away from technology. The cultural messaging about computer science — and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields in general — makes it seem like computers are more for boys than girls.
It’s no surprise that this sexist book has been slammed online and #FeministHackerBarbie is trending on Twitter . Some fantastic reinterpretations have emerged and if you’re so inclined, you can create your own remix here.
Gizmodo has assembled some of the best (and funniest) online responses to Computer Engineer Barbie.
In response to the outrage regarding the title, Barbie issued the following apology on its Facebook page:
The Barbie I Can Be A Computer Engineer book was published in 2010. Since that time we have reworked our Barbie books. The portrayal of Barbie in this specific story doesn’t reflect the Brand’s vision for what Barbie stands for. We believe girls should be empowered to understand that anything is possible and believe they live in a world without limits. We apologize that this book didn’t reflect that belief. All Barbie titles moving forward will be written to inspire girls imaginations and portray an empowered Barbie character.
On amazon, where you can still pick up a copy of this little gem, Random House’s publishing date is listed as 2013. Whether 2010 or 2013, it’s hard to believe the content was ever greenlit by a Mattel executive or publisher.
Do yourself a favor. Don’t read this drivel and don’t give give the book to anyone you know or care about.
Or you can flip the book over and read “Barbie: I Can Be an Actress,” where Barbie saves the day by filling in for the princess in Skipper’s school production of “Princess and the Pea.”
Or… you can check out a new doll being introduced for the holiday season. Billed as “Normal Barbie,” the Lammily comes with an average waistline, acne and cellulite. Whether she can code or not remains to be seen.