I loved her as a child. I wanted every doll and playset that Mattel produced, and I thought all of her different personas were beautiful and perfect. Barbie appeared to have her hands in all the metaphorical pots, being portrayed in a multitude of careers and roles. I doubt any woman could rival her list of achievements in a lifetime.
But on a serious note, with her short stints in any one job, I would think she’d be red flagged for her employment longevity–or more like her lack of it.
At any rate, with all of the noise regarding her newest career aspiration to be a Computer Engineer, I decided to blog about it. (Note: She is not actually an engineer yet. Mattel should rename her “I Can Be A Computer Engineer…Once I Finish School and Get My Degree”.)
To summarize the issue about her Computer Engineer fiasco and how it began, Barbie just made women look weak. Mattel released a short story coinciding with this version of the doll. The story tells of her “designing” a computer game and needing two male classmates to code it. In the meantime, a virus infects her computer but never fear, her stuff is backed up on her necklace/flash drive (it’s on a necklace so she doesn’t forget to back her shit up apparently). How fancy.
She inserts her flash drive into her dear illegitimate daugh–I mean, sister’s computer. You can about imagine what happened then. Yup, Barbie screws up Skipper’s computer because neither were smart enough to have a virus scan on their two inch thick, ten pound, Dell laptops (or maybe it’s an old Gateway).
Barbie, what were you thinking? You could have used your student discount to buy software to protect your precious “Engineer” work.
So, she marches her little fanny to the school to fix her and Skipper’s computers. She asks her teacher (I think it should have been Professor), how she can fix her craptastic machine from 2005. She is told how she can recover her data, and her sister’s precious homework. While attempting to do this, her two male coder buddies show up and the one has the nerve to say, “It’ll go faster if Brian and I help.” Because I guess she can’t get things figured out without males around.
Let me get this straight Mattel, you call Barbie a “Computer Engineer” when she is still a student. Second, you don’t portray her actually engineering anything. Two of her male classmates are doing that part. Barbie is the designer. She can’t even fix her computer. Hm. I see a marketing issue.
Back to the riveting story…Barbie (with the help of her Professor and her two male classmates) saves her sister’s homework and the game designs. Skipper then is able to give her presentation to her class about how she is most inspired by her mom–I mean older sister, Barbie, the “Computer Engineer.”
Cut to Barbie in her class. Ms. Smith is so impressed (by the ability of Barbie to follow instruction). Barbie saved the day with her skills (of following instructions and enabling her sexist male classmates and their chauvinist attitudes by letting them do the tasks that she should have been doing in the first place). She takes the credit for their hard work.
“I guess I can be a Computer Engineer!” Barbie squeals emphatically in her trendy beachy waved, side ponytail.
Um, no Barbie. You can’t. I will tell you why.
First of all, you kind of need to understand coding and how a computer operates. Maybe you should begin by choosing an accredited college for that. Either you have an extreme misunderstanding of what a Computer Engineer does, or you are hoping to just sail through school on your stilettos, while letting your male classmates do the back-end work while you take the credit. Good luck with that!
Second, Mattel, the company that made you has done you and girls everywhere a HUGE disservice. Mattel has consistently made you into a misrepresentation of what real, strong and independent women should be.
Dear Mattel, we are nearly in the year 2015! Yes, women love clothing and makeup. We love looking cute and shopping (not all women, but many…I’m not trying to stereotype), but we also love other things. Some women enjoy getting their hands dirty doing construction, farming, or being rodeo riders. Some prefer to be writers, book editors, or social marketers. We have all types of careers, interests, and skills. Can you stop producing dolls that live in some candy coated world?
I gave you diversity points when you finally recognized the physically challenged population and made a Barbie with a wheelchair. That has long since been a faded memory as you have not made another since. This matter is another blog post though. You definitely don’t win points for sexism.
Why do you keep on insisting a relatable doll has to be dumbed down and clothed in frilly pink garb?
If the side story would have been left out, it wouldn’t have become as big of a deal as it has. It could have been left up to a girl’s imagination. However, because people are going crazy over the absence of a feminism vibe to the story, Mattel and the actual author the company had hired have both been questioned by the media and that has definitely been some interesting reading.
Mattel released an apology on Barbie’s Facebook page:
The Barbie I Can Be A Computer Engineer book was published in 2010. Since that time we have reworked our Barbie books. The portrayal of Barbie in this specific story doesn’t reflect the Brand’s vision for what Barbie stands for. 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 girl’s imaginations and portray an empowered Barbie character.
So, even though the publishing date on sites like Amazon (where it has since been pulled) were cited as 2013, Mattel claims it was published in 2010. The company also says they have reworked their Barbie books since. Is this the reworked version then? Isn’t that what their timeline suggests if the publishing date is 2013? Or do they mean they have changed the way they have written all of the books since the Computer Engineer one came out, but they didn’t actually change any of the books that had already been published?
Also, where was the quality control? If it didn’t fit the vision, why go ahead with it?
The author, Susan Marenco, was quoted on the ABC website:
The author, Susan Marenco, who previously worked at Microsoft Development Center Copenhagen for 10 years as an “editor and usability designer specializing in linguistic usability,” told ABC News this afternoon she considers herself a feminist and regrets that she may have let stereotypes slip into the book. But the assignment was to write about Barbie as a “designer,” she added.
“I want people to know I am conscious of that,” she said, referring to stereotypes of women in technology. “If I was on deadline, it’s possible stuff slipped out or I quietly abided by Mattel without questioning it. Maybe I should have pushed back, and I usually I do, but I didn’t this time.”
“Maybe I should have made one of those programmers a female – I wish I did,” said Marenco, who is now a technical editor at a tech firm in San Francisco. Mattel has not responded to ABC News’ attempts to confirm her account.
In a story on the Refinery 29 website, Marenco was also quoted from another source:
“They can’t get out of the groove of ‘she’s nice; she doesn’t show anger; she doesn’t show frustration,'” Marenco continued to KTN. She’s written 40-50 Barbie books, and has received many comments from editors saying that the character “has to be more polite.”
Personally, Barbie seems creepily polite. She shoots an unreal amount of sunshine and daisies out of her ass (not literally).
Why did Mattel name the doll with a title of Computer Engineer when they instructed the author to write about Barbie as a Designer? Communication issues?
I guess there is an entire “I Can Be…” Barbie series of dolls. I wonder if any of the other books are as botched as this particular one was. I’m sure people are feverishly looking through them. As of now, the current “I Can Be…” doll offerings are entrepreneur, pop star, singer, cake baker, cookie chef, ice skater, swim champion, soccer player, tennis player, and nurse (wearing skin tight jeggings…I don’t think that’s the typical nursing uniform).
I did find a list of Barbie’s past careers on Wikipedia. I’m not sure how complete this is. How about producing a lawyer, house flipper, farmer, truck driver, do another round of Barbie in the armed forces like in the early 90’s (not in pink camo), or how about a TV camera woman?
I get it, Barbie is a doll that is supposed to encourage girls to be imaginative and creative in their play. There are certain Barbie lines geared towards the different age groups–some that aren’t all dressed in pink. But those aren’t the ones with all the different careers. Children are pretty smart, and they often want to emulate adults. The kids may not have noticed what was wrong with the scenario in the book, but maybe some subconsciously took something from it. If you are going to try to teach a girl she can be anything she wants, try teaching it in a better way.
Somewhere out there, one little girl learned and has internalized that in a male dominated field, men will always be better at the job. Thanks Mattel!
Image Credit: Here