Sunday, November 23, 2014

Guest Post about Barbie `I can be an engineer' -- Sounds good but its not.

There is now a I can be an engineer Barbie. That sounds good! It's not. Imagine how this could be turned around and made sexist. What you are imagining might not be as bad as the reality. Depends on your imagination.

Guest Blogger Brittany Terese Fasy explains:

Remember the controversy over the Barbie doll that said
"Math class is tough!"?  Well, Barbie strikes again.

If you haven't heard about II can be a computer engineer  it is a story about how Barbie, as a "computer engineer" designs a game, but cannot code it herself.  She enlists the help of her two friends, Steven and Brian, to do it for her.  Then, she gets a computer virus and naively shares it with hersister.  Again, Steven and Brian must come to the rescue.  Somehow, in the end, she takes credit for all of their work and says that she can be a computer engineer.  Gender issues aside, she does not embody a computer engineer in this book. For more details, please see here.

Children need role models.  Naturally, parents are their first role models.  And, not everyone's parent is a computer engineer / computer scientist.  So, books exploring different career choices to children provides the much-needed opportunity for them to learn about something new, to have a role model (even if if that role model is fictional).  In principle, this book is fantastic; however, it fails to convey the right message.  That is why I started a petition to Random House to pull this book off the market.The petition is here.

Progress was made as Barbie issued an apology: here. And Amazon and Barnes and Nobles  removed the book from its catalog. However, neither Random House, nor the author of the book have issued a statement, and it is still available at Walmart.

Until the book is completely off the market we should not stop! And maybe one day, we'll see
Barbie: I can be a Computational Geometer on the shelves.


  1. The reaction to the book has been fantastic. Check out the twitter hashtag #FeministHackerBarbie, as well as the webapp where you can edit the text of your favorite page to be less stupidly sexist.

    Here's my attempt:

  2. The book is over 4 years old. The remix I saw was very anti-male. Are all Barbie books this silly in the eyes of the people in the field they represent? Also, if Skipper was so far into her report, how did it all of a sudden become about her sister "fixing" the computer she broke in the first place?

  3. I also found the "remix" anti-male, which is sad too. A biased predicate is equally biased if you negate it, and gender equality should not work like that.

  4. am all for diversity but sometimes think the self-appointed feminists & race-balancers take it a little too far. the comic book was cancelled with an executive promising that all future comics will feature "female empowered characters". whatever! more on gender/ race disparity in a section in this blog. you also mentioned the imitation game movie with turing, another topic in the post.

  5. Are we talking about this remix?

  6. I thought this remix was pretty good. It keeps the original tone and style, but makes a few edits that get rid of the problems, and I don't see how it could be seen as anti-male.

    I don't think it's fair to blame feminists for the fact that some places decided to stop selling the book. It's not as if feminists control a consumer block big enough to effectively threaten the business. Even from the people commenting on the book, I didn't see a universal call for getting rid of the book--the blogger I linked to above included a pdf you could print out on sticker paper to fix-up the book.

    I wouldn't want to read the book to my kids, but it's not the worst children's book I've seen.