Awful Barbie Book Says 'Computer Engineer Barbie' Needs Men to Do the Hard Work

With her blond hair, Zeppelin-sized boobs, thimble-sized waist, and pert nose, Barbie has been popular since she was invented -- but for all the wrong reasons. She's popular because she's popular. Boys love her. She's sweet, pretty -- and did we say pretty? But moms have always had an ambiguous relationship with Barbie. Should she really be a source of learning and inspiration for our daughters? What is she teaching them exactly? Well, a Barbie book called I Can Be a Computer Engineer is drawing fire for seemingly teaching its audience -- girls ages 3 to 7 -- the exact opposite. It gives them the undeniable message that Barbie can't be a computer engineer -- at least not unless she gets her male friends to do all the hard work!


Amazon reviewers were almost overwhelmingly underwhelmed by Barbie's engineering skills, giving the book 131 one-star reviews out of 147 total reviews. Wrote Rachel Appel on Amazon in a typical scathing diatribe:

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. She immediately admits she doesn't know how to actually do computer engineering, and like a Disney princess, needs a white knight to rescue her. The attitude Barbie portrays in between the illustrations and story line makes it clear that Barbie needs a boy's help and can NOT do this on her own.

Later, the plot thickens when Barbie tells her little sister Skipper that she will rescue her computer, which she's inadvertently infected with a virus. Instead, she hands off the work to her two male friends and then returns home to tell Skipper that she saved the day. Continues Appel:

Barbie takes 100 percent of the credit for fixing something to which she contributed nothing. Barbie also accepts extra credit for work she did not do. The story cites -- of all things -- her exceptional computer skills as the reason. 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.

Mark, who is a computer engineer with two daughters, wrote that his only recommendation for the book was to "burn it."

Yikes, what happened here? The book was supposedly written by a woman, Susan Marenco. Was Susan so deeply indoctrinated into the idea that women aren't technology savvy that her subconscious took over and she ended up writing Barbie as a total technotard? Not only a technotard, but one who needs boys to rescue her from her virus tower?

Sure, sometimes women do ask for men's help. Nothing wrong with that. Like I totally can't put anything that requires a screwdriver together. Help me, Mr. Man!

But NOT IN A LEARNING BOOK. You've got a few thousand words to convey your point that Barbie is a computer programmer. Wouldn't make sense to see her actually, um, doing that?

Mattel has been trying hard over the years to update the Barbie image by having Barbie in male-dominated careers: Barbie as an astronaut, Barbie as a NASCAR driver, Barbie as President of the United States. But Barbie as Bill Gates seemed to stymie her creators.

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This is how early it starts, people. This is how the early the message is hammered into pliable young female minds. They may not even remember where the message came from or the message itself. But by the time these young girls are 12 or 13, watch as they begin telling you they want to be a fashion designer when they grow up. Or a Kardashian. Hey, we need fashion designers. But we need computer programmers more. Besides, we have enough fashion designers! And we definitely have enough Kardashians.

To get a sense of how far Barbie -- and women in general -- have come, take a look at Barbie's early careers from the 1960s: there was no neurologist, no pilot. She was a fashion model, stewardess, nurse, and teacher. There was a time not too long ago when a women really DID only have those choices.

Let's not go back to that. Our girls can do anything they put their minds to. And they don't need a guy to do the "hard work" for them.

In a statement, Mattel agreed that the Barbie book wasn't exactly its finest moment and said that all books going forward would portray an "empowered" Barbie. So, Mattel, that means SEAL Team 6 Barbie won't bat her eyes at Robert O'Neill and ask him to shoot Osama bin Laden because she doesn't want to break a fingernail, 'kay?

What do you think of the book's message?


Image via Eric Steuer/Flickr

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