Barbie, Remixed: I (Really!) Can Be a Computer Engineer

This needed a remix, badly.

Casey Fiesler

I am a PhD student in a computing department, so I guess it’s not surprising that my social media feeds have been full of outrage over Barbie’s “computer engineering” skills. The blog post that originally went viral appears to be sporadically down due to heavy traffic, but The Daily Dot also has a good summary of the problematic book titled Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer. The problematic part is that, as far as I can tell, the steps for becoming a computer engineer if you’re Barbie are:

  1. Design a videogame.
  2. Get a boy to code it for you.
  3. Accidentally infect your computer with a virus.
  4. Get a boy to fix it for you.
  5. Take all the credit for these things yourself.

And the problem isn’t even that Barbie isn’t a “real” computer scientist because she isn’t coding. (I am one of those mostly-non-coding computer scientists myself, though now…

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Barbie, You’ve Pissed Me Off

First off, I’m already in a bad mood. Then I had to go and read this drivel. The article was fascinating. It really made me feel like I learned something when I got through it. I’ve faced sexism when it comes to working environments. I’ve been looked down at and looked past because I am a woman doing a “man’s” job.
Barbie, well you pissed me off. Granted it’s the content writers fault, but the behavior of the character is inexcusable. It keeps me going back to the comedy line that Sarah Silverman said, “Don’t tell kids ‘girls can be anything!’ They wouldn’t have thought otherwise…” By telling girls you can grow up to be anything what you’re really introducing is doubt that they can succeed.

 

What we really need are a few people to step up and make changes to literature our children are reading. There are some huge gaps in intelligent, attractive female characters. There are huge gaps in children’s books about children who aren’t white. There are few children’s books about adopted children. However, our children that need the inspiration. To see other people who can find jobs doing things that they are interested in. That they have dreams about. That change the world or make the world a better place.

Please write better things than this. Please include thought when you hand your child a 2-in-1 book where one side they could be an actress who can’t remember her lines and the other side they could be studying computer science but they don’t code (she only designs and leaves the coding to the boys, GAHHH!).

I’m begging you, today let your art push us forward as a society and not bring us backwards. Let us fight these people who stereotype us and make us fit into the spaces that are comfortable for them.

I’m asking you to live uncomfortably. Push against the current – we’re going in the wrong direction.