Barbie can be a computer engineer--with a man's help

This book is full of horrible stereotypes about women in technology and is rightly being soundly criticized from all corners of the web

Ah, Barbie. After telling young girls for years that "math is hard," now in your "I can be a computer engineer" book you're teaching us that girls can't actually be computer engineers, they can only get male friends to fix their computer problems.

Pamela Ribon posted excerpts from this astonishing Barbie book, published in 2010 (you'd think it was the 1950s), which shows Barbie designing ideas for a robot puppy and admiting she needs her friends' (Steven's and Brian's) help "to turn it into a real game." It gets worse after that, with Barbie crashing her computer and her sister's wtih a virus, Steven and Brian coming to the rescue fixing the laptops, and then Barbie taking the credit for the save. It's like the worst possible way you could portray a female using computers (much less an engineer) and the worst part is it's targeted towards young girls.

Gender is a huge topic in technology today, with large tech companies like Google admitting to a lack of diversity in their workforce. Initiatives like Made with Code and products like Hello Ruby (a book with a coding heroine) and Goldie Blox (building kits starring a girl named Goldie) are attempts to introduce young girls to STEM and help overcome the gender bias still prevalent in the industry. Barbie is a big step back.

The Barbie book is perhaps the most blatant example of clueless yet clear stereotyping. I'm only glad it exists because it's pushing the discussion even further. Some people have been remixing the Barbie book to correct it, including this remix from a female PhD student in computer science. There's a site--Feminist Hacker Barbie--where you can rewrite the story yourself to make a more competent, independent, and smart engineer (just be warned it looks like it could use some moderation).

[via Gizmodo]

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