I Can Be a Computer Engineer Barbie Sends Girls the Opposite Message - Update

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I Can Be a Computer Engineer Barbie Sends Girls the Opposite Message - Update

barbie computer engineer

A book in the Barbie I Can Be series encourages girls to be computer engineers but also reinforces sexism in programming.

Update: Barbie apologized for the I Can Be a Computer Engineer book, which originally came out in 2010. The company said in those four years, it has reworked its portrayal of Barbie.

"The portrayal of Barbie in this specific story doesn't reflect the Brand's vision for what Barbie stands for," a statement reads on the official Barbie Facebook page. "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."

Original story: For months Amazon reviews of the Barbie book I Can Be a Computer Engineer have been incredibly negative, but it was only recently that media caught on to the book's problematic portrayal of a woman who wants to make games.

I Can Be a Computer Engineer released in June 2013 along with I Can Be an Actress. The book has gone on to have an overwhelmingly large number of one-star reviews on Amazon. Some reviews read as follows:

I found the sexist drivel that this book portays to be especially inflammatory, so much so that I've placed it near my fireplace for emergency use during a power outage. The demeaning words add extra fuel as they certainly come from the fire of hell itself.
Also wonderful for starting your backyard grill.

Barbie starts out at breakfast stating that she's designing a game but when questioned by her sister Skipper, she admits, "I'm only creating the design idea, I'll need Steven and Brian's help to turn it into a real game". Literally six sentences into the story, and already Barbie can NOT do it... I work as a software engineer, which is a male dominated field. It is exactly these stereotypes and portrayals of girls like the one in this book that are the driving force behind the lack of girls wanting to enter these lucrative technology fields. This book is part of the problem.

An appalling representation of how women act in the world of technology.
Lessons you learn from "I Can Be a Computer Engineer":

A girl needs a boy to do anything of value.
Women are not able to fix their own computer problems.
Girls need boys to do their work for them but can simply take the credit and no one will worry about who really did the work since, duh! a girl couldn't have done it by herself.

Basically this book enforces all the bad stereotypes about women/girls not being capable enough to compete with men/boys when it comes to careers in technology. Fantastic.

Women in geek culture are already treated as second class citizens, this book had a chance to do something good and failed - MISERABLY.

The book met much greater attention this week when writer and actress Pamela Ribon wrote a post on Pamie.com verbally tearing the book to shreds. Ribon recounts her experience first reading the book after a friend told her about it. Ribon was first pleased to see Barbie talking about making a game that was educational, fun, and cute.

Unfortunately, Barbie then says, "I'm only creating the design ideas. I'll need Steven and Brian's help to turn it into a real game!"

For the rest of the story, Barbie struggles with malware and then gets Steven and Brian to fix it, and she then presents her game design project as her own project despite doing none of the programming for it.

Common discussion of this book comes after Rosetta scientist Matt Taylor, who worked with the European Space Agency to land the Philae spacecraft on a comet, wore a shirt with revealing pictures of women on it. Taylor's shirt was just one example of casual sexism that makes women feel unwelcome in STEM. Taylor apologized.

For a different take on the book, check out PhD student Casey Fiesler's transformative changes, which take on traditional gender roles and masculinity and exposes the problem of people assuming the women on a game developer team is working on art rather than the code.

Source: I Can Be A Computer Engineer Barbie Amazon via Pamie.com

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Not a surprise really, Barbie has been inadvertently doing these things for years.

As for the other story:
Damn Matt Taylor, where the hell do you even get a shirt like that?! xD

My question: Is anyone ACTUALLY surprised?

Seriously, ANYONE?

That said, it's still disappointing. They COULD have shocked the world by putting out a positive message. But they didn't. Because of course they didn't. -_-

My favorite part of the original article is this paragraph describing the book, which is one of those split books where you can turn it upside-down and open it from the other end to read a different one, in this case I Can Be an Actress:

Flip the book and you can 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." She ad-libs and smiles her way through her lines, and charms the entire audience. Standing ovation, plenty of praise. At no point did she need anybody's help. She didn't even need lines! Just standing there being Barbie was enough for everyone in attendance. See, actors? It's not that hard. Even Barbie can do it.

When you hold the book in your hands to read a story, the opposite book is upside down, facing out. So the final insult to this entire literary disaster is that when you read "Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer," it appears that you are so fucking dumb, you're reading "Barbie: I Can Be an Actress" upside down.

The article was good until it started presenting the writer's opinion as fact. The book is sexist, even if you don't think it was bad, it was, by the definition, sexist. However I fail to see how the mere depiction of women with literally no context can be sexist. The conclusion that the creator and wearer of the shirt thought that women were only objects here for our pleasure is making one hell of an assumption.

Are we going after dumb shit that happened 4 years ago now?

Wow, Barbie, a rather outdated product when it comes to sending messages about anything (the only message it sends is "If you look pretty enough you dont have to do shit because your price will come along and save you"), has a book where the general message is dumb as fuck. Who knew?

Story:

As for the other story:
Damn Matt Taylor, where the hell do you even get a shirt like that?! xD

It was a birthday gift made by his friend Elly Prizeman.

Story:
Not a surprise really, Barbie has been inadvertently doing these things for years.

As for the other story:
Damn Matt Taylor, where the hell do you even get a shirt like that?! xD

Apparently a friend made it for him. I'm guessing he wanted to wear that shirt for her. Also way to hit the guy when he was down Escapist. The guy probably just wanted to wear that shirt because it was a gift and was special to him. Not to mention the fact that almost every website out there has already thoroughly dissed him on what was supposed to be one of the biggest days of his life.

Hey, the thumbnail for this story isn't displaying correctly.

As to the rest - meh. I really think this only came up because recently people found a feminism in STEM thing to seize on and they went looking for more. Otherwise it would have been news before now.

The only noteworthy thing about this story is the response by the company, which can be noted as reasonable.

aegix drakan:
My question: Is anyone ACTUALLY surprised?

Seriously, ANYONE?

That said, it's still disappointing. They COULD have shocked the world by putting out a positive message. But they didn't. Because of course they didn't. -_-

I actually am a bit. Barbie has always given me a 'Legally Blonde' vibe. In the history of the brand Barbie has been just about everything, so it is quite surprising to me. Seriously, how many female surgeons existed in 1973? Because Barbie was one in that year. I think people get so caught up sometime they forget that Barbie is a positive female role-model. That makes this actually surprising because for a doll created to expand girls views of what they could do. I don't know what I am more disappointed in, the book, or the people who this this is par for the course.

The goofy shirt is not sexist. Just kind of tacky. That book? Definitely. Without a doubt. And while I don't want to introduce any sort of controversial topics here (though I know just saying this has a risk of opening a can of worms), as someone who is called sexist merely because I have certain opinions on the things going on in gaming, it's nice to see a clear-cut, actual example of sexist stupidity. And a certain person would do well to go after this sort of thing, because it actually could affect millions of young girls and the way they think about future careers instead of attacking video games because some of them have scantily clad attractive women.

CrazyBlaze:

Apparently a friend made it for him. I'm guessing he wanted to wear that shirt for her. Also way to hit the guy when he was down Escapist. The guy probably just wanted to wear that shirt because it was a gift and was special to him. Not to mention the fact that almost every website out there has already thoroughly dissed him on what was supposed to be one of the biggest days of his life.

MiskWisk:

It was a birthday gift made by his friend Elly Prizeman.

Thanks you two, I was actually pretty curious.
I can easily see why he thought it was a great idea to wear the shirt given how his female friend made it for him and it showed women in the shirt itself.
That's a shame.

Booklover13:

aegix drakan:
My question: Is anyone ACTUALLY surprised?

Seriously, ANYONE?

That said, it's still disappointing. They COULD have shocked the world by putting out a positive message. But they didn't. Because of course they didn't. -_-

I actually am a bit. Barbie has always given me a 'Legally Blonde' vibe. In the history of the brand Barbie has been just about everything, so it is quite surprising to me. Seriously, how many female surgeons existed in 1973? Because Barbie was one in that year. I think people get so caught up sometime they forget that Barbie is a positive female role-model. That makes this actually surprising because for a doll created to expand girls views of what they could do. I don't know what I am more disappointed in, the book, or the people who this this is par for the course.

Don't be absurd. A few good examples doesn't outweigh all the bad ones.
Oh, and did that surgeon Barbie have the completely unrealistic unhealthy supermodel figure that all Barbies do? I'm guessing it did.

Alexander Kirby:
The article was good until it started presenting the writer's opinion as fact. The book is sexist, even if you don't think it was bad, it was, by the definition, sexist. However I fail to see how the mere depiction of women with literally no context can be sexist. The conclusion that the creator and wearer of the shirt thought that women were only objects here for our pleasure is making one hell of an assumption.

The author of the article did not say that the wearer of the shirt held any such beliefs. The article claimed that wearing the shirt (with a link to an image of the man wearing the shirt) was an example of casual sexism. I agree that context is necessary, but the context is presented in the article and via hyperlinks.

Eh, anyone using anything Barbie for their kids education is a moron anyway. It just seems so stupid... they should have had 3 girls working on the game, then it wouldn't have been an issue for anyone. If Brian and Steve were Brianna and Stephanie, this wouldn't be happening.

Captcha: Time machine
- don't you wish, Barbie!

So did no one in the company proof read/ double check the book at all? I take it as a no.

I'm guessing the point of keeping Barbie's task design-focused was because they figured the design aspect would be more appealing to girls than the coding process. Which, as people have correctly pointed out, only reinforces the idea that girls can't do coding. And that also doesn't make her a computer engineer, that makes her a visual designer. Perhaps this would have been a bit better if they just took out the idea of coding it and made it "I can be a Graphic Designer." Or if they just stopped being condescending and just let her code.

Either way, a very unfortunate thing. Glad they acknowledged the problem.

"Oh, how silly and backwards we were *only four years ago.*"

Maze1125:

Booklover13:

aegix drakan:
My question: Is anyone ACTUALLY surprised?

Seriously, ANYONE?

That said, it's still disappointing. They COULD have shocked the world by putting out a positive message. But they didn't. Because of course they didn't. -_-

I actually am a bit. Barbie has always given me a 'Legally Blonde' vibe. In the history of the brand Barbie has been just about everything, so it is quite surprising to me. Seriously, how many female surgeons existed in 1973? Because Barbie was one in that year. I think people get so caught up sometime they forget that Barbie is a positive female role-model. That makes this actually surprising because for a doll created to expand girls views of what they could do. I don't know what I am more disappointed in, the book, or the people who this this is par for the course.

Don't be absurd. A few good examples doesn't outweigh all the bad ones.
Oh, and did that surgeon Barbie have the completely unrealistic unhealthy supermodel figure that all Barbies do? I'm guessing it did.

I disagree strongly that there are a bunch of bad examples. Heck I'd argue that there are a far greater number of good then bad. Barbie has be everything, and I do mean everything, [take a look](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbie's_careers). The only potentially bad influence I can think of is the one you mentions, the body type. Just to be clear, are you are telling be she can not be a positive influence solely because of her appearance? A few things one that.

1. The doll was created in 1959, not exactly an era that focused on weight size.

2. The doll's breasts and their noticeable existence was very important when it was released. This was because they wanted it to be clear this was a adult woman doing these things. This lets girls see themselves in these roles in the future. Where as the dolls of that era only reinforce the homemaker role.

3. This was mostly about making the clothes easier to change an have them fall right. This is important to to functions of the doll.

4. They have increased the waist size

5. Boys toys can be just as bad, most 'space armor' is just as impossible.

And surgeon Barbie can stand on her own, she doesn't wear heals. Thanks for putting all the value on her body though!

Women in geek culture are already treated as second class citizens,

It always makes me sad to see this since the belief primarily comes from female 'empowerment' groups and media covering any case of poor treatment like it's the norm. It's like how the same groups push the 'rape culture' narrative and then bemoan that a woman can't walk down the street at night without fearing rape. This stuff isn't helpful and does more to make women believe they'll be shunned than any actual shunning that happens.

Do find the story kind of funny, it sounds like they modeled Barby after Anita Sarkeesian, a glorified consultant.

It's not what you do; it's what you wear while you're doing it.

Progress!

ryukage_sama:
The author of the article did not say that the wearer of the shirt held any such beliefs. The article claimed that wearing the shirt (with a link to an image of the man wearing the shirt) was an example of casual sexism. I agree that context is necessary, but the context is presented in the article and via hyperlinks.

You misunderstood what I was trying to say, let me clarify: My problem was with the statement that it was casual sexism (as if there was no discussion in it). If I can disagree with something, it's an opinion. The rest of what it said about context etc. was a very short counter-argument to prove my point that it is indeed only one opinion of the matter. She also stated, as fact, that it made women feel 'unwelcome at STEM', but gave no evidence that anyone there had actually complained.

What I meant about context was that the pictures on the shirt carried no context, e.g. if they were in the context of making a sandwich, that would be an obvious sexist jab, but I don't see how people can jump to conclusions from the mere depiction of women. It's sad that because men can appreciate the form of a female body it apparently means we all see them as objects, when there's no proof that upon meeting a real woman we'd treat them as anything less than a person.

ryukage_sama:
The author of the article did not say that the wearer of the shirt held any such beliefs. The article claimed that wearing the shirt (with a link to an image of the man wearing the shirt) was an example of casual sexism. I agree that context is necessary, but the context is presented in the article and via hyperlinks.

You misunderstood what I was trying to say, let me clarify: My problem was with the statement that it was casual sexism (as if there was no discussion in it). If I can disagree with something, it's an opinion. The rest of what it said about context etc. was a very short counter-argument to prove my point that it is indeed only one opinion of the matter. She also stated, as fact, that it made women feel 'unwelcome at STEM', but gave no evidence that anyone there had actually complained.

What I meant about context was that the pictures on the shirt carried no context, e.g. if they were in the context of making a sandwich, that would be an obvious sexist jab, but I don't see how people can jump to conclusions from the mere depiction of women. It's sad that because men can appreciate the form of a female body it apparently means we all see them as objects, when there's no proof that upon meeting a real woman we'd treat them as anything less than a person.

Booklover13:
I disagree strongly that there are a bunch of bad examples. Heck I'd argue that there are a far greater number of good then bad. Barbie has be everything, and I do mean everything, [take a look](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbie's_careers). The only potentially bad influence I can think of is the one you mentions, the body type. Just to be clear, are you are telling be she can not be a positive influence solely because of her appearance? A few things one that.

There's a difference between "sexism" and "bad influence".
You only have to look at the education list to see the blatant sexism in the minds of the creators.
It's easy to "fight" sexism by making a military option. It's far hard to go "Actually, let's make her a secondary maths teacher this time, rather than a primary school teacher for the 6th time."

1. The doll was created in 1959, not exactly an era that focused on weight size.

Yep, sexist era produces sexist doll.
I agree entirely.

2. The doll's breasts and their noticeable existence was very important when it was released. This was because they wanted it to be clear this was a adult woman doing these things. This lets girls see themselves in these roles in the future. Where as the dolls of that era only reinforce the homemaker role.

And that's an admirable goal. But good intentions does not automatically translate to good implementation.
I absolutely believe that most people working at Barbie are anti-sexism on a concious level. That doesn't mean that their subconscious prejudices don't have significant effects on the outcome.

3. This was mostly about making the clothes easier to change an have them fall right. This is important to to functions of the doll.

Yes... Of course... There was absolutely no other way around that problem...

4. They have increased the waist size

Not enough.

5. Boys toys can be just as bad, most 'space armor' is just as impossible.

Seriously? Comparing sci-fi technology to modern day sexism is the best you could come up with?
And that's not even getting into the question of the sexism in how the perpetuated male ideal is about being powerful while the perpetuated female ideal is about being attractive to others... (and therefore really really aren't comparable)

And surgeon Barbie can stand on her own, she doesn't wear heals. Thanks for putting all the value on her body though!

Are you really trying to defend the body deformity by saying "Yeah, but this one doesn't have shoes with heels!"?

Alexander Kirby:
She also stated, as fact, that it made women feel 'unwelcome at STEM', but gave no evidence that anyone there had actually complained.

STEM refers to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Not a particular company.
If you need proof that woman have trouble getting welcomed into those fields then just Google it. It's been a problem for a long long time.

So that Barbie satire episode of the Simpsons actually happened in real life?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ftde81QNXDY

Maze1125:

Alexander Kirby:
She also stated, as fact, that it made women feel 'unwelcome at STEM', but gave no evidence that anyone there had actually complained.

STEM refers to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Not a particular company.
If you need proof that woman have trouble getting welcomed into those fields then just Google it. It's been a problem for a long long time.

I'd also like to add this blog post by Randi Harper on her 20-odd years experience in tech, and how she faced (and still faces) harassment and belittlement because of her gender.

http://randi.io/wp/archives/86

Different field, but her experiences are broadly applicable.

People really will overreact to anything these days.

They should keep the book as is and just title it "I can do a kickstarter videogame".
Then have Barbie list things like "crafting", "rogue-like", "retro", "survival", "revolutionary" and I'd congratulate them on their realistic portrayal of kickstarter games.
And oddly enough, that version wouldn't even be sexist, because "idea guy" is a unisex occupation.

Baresark:
Eh, anyone using anything Barbie for their kids education is a moron anyway. It just seems so stupid... they should have had 3 girls working on the game, then it wouldn't have been an issue for anyone. If Brian and Steve were Brianna and Stephanie, this wouldn't be happening.

It still wouldn't be very 'empowering' though for the main character in a story to solve her problems by getting someone else to come fix things for her. If Barbie is so incompetent why is she the main character? Why not make the story about Brianna and Stephanie? My guess is that the writers didn't feel that their target audience would understand or be interested in programming, which is probably true[1], but also kinda undermines the entire point of the book.

[1] Put down your pitchforks, I simply mean that Barbies target audience is CHILDREN and coding is above most childrens' heads

Does this belong in news? I don't know if it's wrong or not but can we just give Carly her own column? With sexism being such a diverse and nuanced issue even among it's supporters, is it responsible from a journalistic standpoint to use a subjective headline and editorialize throughout? I realize in the wake of gamergate tensions are on high for this issue but just honestly speaking, this is not news as it lacks the quality if being "new" information and focuses on the opinion and social context of a book. Maybe you could say something like "critics pan Barbie book for 'sexist' message." I mean maybe it's just my opinion but I always thought it was journalism to present the facts and let the reader draw they're own conclusion. This is already drawn for me forcing me to ask myself "really?"

Barbie starts out at breakfast stating that she's designing a game but when questioned by her sister Skipper, she admits, "I'm only creating the design idea, I'll need Steven and Brian's help to turn it into a real game"

And what is wrong with this? No, seriously. *sigh* This pretty much explains why you don't see so many female characters because if you're going to write one she better damned well be wonder woman who can do everything that needs to be done without help.. unless it is from another woman.

Geez it's weird that that is actuyally a fair and accurate depiction of what a woman would face working in the field. You are going to need help (everyone needs help) and in a currently male dominated field well there's a good bet your peers and co-workers are going to be male...

The book sounds idiotic, but that shirt looks glorious. I would not have worn it for my big day on television, but no, that damned shirt is not a bit of "casual mysogyny." The linked article's headline says it all; I don't care that you helped do something extraordinary that pushes our understanding forward, that shirt is awful! The fact that anyone would claim that that shirt somehow demonstrates contempt for women seems absurd. The fact that they would value the man's contribution to science less because they don't like his shirt is pants-on-head stupid.

josemlopes:
Are we going after dumb shit that happened 4 years ago now?

Wow, Barbie, a rather outdated product when it comes to sending messages about anything (the only message it sends is "If you look pretty enough you dont have to do shit because your price will come along and save you"), has a book where the general message is dumb as fuck. Who knew?

I hope that's a typo, but in either case, I find it hilarious. It get's the same point across as "prince" which I assume was the word you'd meant to use, but instead of being supported by one rich guy it's (presumably) a bunch of horny Johns.

Wow that's bad. What's next? Barbie's "I can be a Navy SEAL: So long as guys are doing the actual fighting, I'll just take the Medals?"

Is anyone surprised that an entire generation of girls are being talked down to like that? Well, here's hoping that the next generation isn't as screwed up as this one.

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