“Barbie: I Can Be A Computer Engineer” sounds like the kind of book that pushes gender stereotypes and teaches young girls that they can do anything they set their minds to. Yet despite its title, the book has faced substantial criticism from both parents and engineering professionals.
Readers only need to get to “the second page to find out that Barbie is completely incompetent,” writes Time. “While she’s capable of conceptualizing a game about a cute robot puppy … Barbie needs boys to actually do the computer programing for her … The rest of the book involves Barbie crashing her computer (duh), passing a virus to Skipper (a pillow fight ensues… I mean, really), ignoring her female computer teacher’s advice on how to fix the virus … and finally letting brogrammers come to her rescue. While Steve and Brian seem like nice enough guys, they don’t even teach Barbie what to do on her hot pink laptop.”
The book grabbed the attention of one blogger and has since become a trending topic, bringing an avalanche of memes and tweets that label the book as sexist.
One reviewer on Amazon wrote, “As a computer engineer and the father of two daughters who are both in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, my only recommendation for this book would be to set it on fire,” reports USA Today.
At least one person is coming to the book’s defense: the author.
“I think they’ve misdirected their anger to some degree,” the book’s author, Susan Marenco told ABC News about the book’s critics. “No one [did] this maliciously.”
Mattell has since released a statement and the book is out of stock on Amazon:
“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,” Mattel said on its Facebook page, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “All Barbie titles moving forward will be written to inspire girls’ imaginations and portray an empowered Barbie character.”
Avery Hagleitner, a software architect at IBM, proposed an alternative story for Barbie to Yahoo!: “I remember when I was in school. Even though I was the only girl in my AP Computer Science class in high school, I was the one helping boys with coding, math, science and computer problems. That’s the kind of story they should have told -- a girl that can do it just as well, or even better than anyone else (boy or girl), and help others along the way.”
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