The makers of Barbie seem to apologize A LOT for underestimating young women. This time the Internet’s buzzing over a pretty cringe-worthy Barbie book, “I Can Be A Computer Engineer,” published out of Random House.
Barbie is featured in the book as a stylishly pink-clad computer engineer that somehow breaks everything and doesn’t know how to code. She does draw puppies though. This lady hacker needs the help of two dudes named Steve and Brian to do the real programming work cuz she’s just, “creating design ideas.” Ha ha ha…what?
In another section, a supposedly intelligent engineer Barbie (who should be familiar enough with technology not to do this) puts her flash drive into Skipper’s laptop and accidentally infects it with a virus. Skipper didn’t back up her homework and loses all her files and music, too. Silly Barbie. The two then get into a pillow fight. A pillow fight! Of course. Because women actually do that.
Don’t worry, Steve and Brian are here to save everything.
All the outrage over this book caught Mattel’s attention. It’s no longer available on Amazon.
A blogger who writes for Disney, Pamela Ribon first wrote about “I Can Be A Computer Engineer,” after picking it up at a friend’s house and reading horrific page after page. The traffic from her blog was so intense that she republished the piece on Gizmodo last night. The social blew up and people took to the Twitters to let Mattel know what a lady hacker can accomplish:
Love, love that last one about Jem from Jem and the Holograms. She’s a rockstar and a programmer.
Mattel has since apologized for this completely sexist garbage on it’s Facebook page, promising it won’t do it again:
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 girl’s imaginations and portray an empowered Barbie character.
This is not the first time in Barbie’s more than half a century history something like this has happened. I clearly remember when Barbie held an aversion to math. Mattel released a Teen Talk Barbie back in 1992. The chattery doll would say things like, “Math class is tough,” and “I love shopping” right after, implying young girls would be better off skipping homework not suited for them.
Mattel offered to recall the 1.5 percent of all dolls programmed to say the phrase and promised to support girls in school from now on.
This may have been the inspiration for Lisa Simpson’s rant on Malibu Stacy in the fourteenth episode of The Simpsons‘ fifth season. Lisa challenges the Malibu Stacy creators to make a less sexist doll.
Mattel also came up with a Totally Tattoos Barbie in 2009, complete with tramp stamp.
Barbie’s features – slim hips, tiny waist, permanently arched feet, giant boobs that would topple any life sized woman – have been widely criticized as causing little girls to have unrealistic body image issues. There was even a Barbie that came with a weight loss book in the late 60’s. The book gave suggestions like, “Don’t eat.” Barbie’s bathroom scale from 1965 is permanently set to 110 pounds.
There are several Barbie-like dolls out there. Nicolay Lamm created a successfully crowdfunded Kicstarter campaign last year to make the Lammily doll, a proportionally realistic 12″ figure you can add freckles, zits and glasses to. Tag line, “Average is beautiful.” He’s since added clothes and accessories for this normal lady.
It does appear Barbie has made some strides over the years. Mattel widened her waist in 2000 and has since given her dozens of different careers including doctor, lawyer and astronaut. The computer science book was published in 2010. Mattel says it has since “reworked” it. Hope it’s as good as blogger Casey Fiesler’s version.
Those who believe in supporting the equal treatment of young women can do anything, including get Mattel to think about its impact, apologize, recall products and (hopefully) change direction.