Barbie Doll Blowout: Incompetent ‘Computer Engineer’ Barbie Creates Controversy

Samantha Kilgore

If, for some reason, you’re searching for the Barbie book I Can Be a Computer Engineer, you won’t find it on Amazon. The company pulled the title from its online shelves after the book created an outcry this week.

The idea behind the book seems sound enough — Barbie has decided to take a computer class, and her big assignment is to create a computer game. But, like many great works of literature, there’s a crisis. Barbie has apparently learned zero coding skills in her computer class, and will need to rely on a few big, handsome, computer-literate men to help. This is a point Barbie makes clear to little sister Skipper on the first page, while mindlessly drawing puppies on the computer screen.

She cannot be expected to create a game herself, Barbie tells Skipper.

“I’m only creating the design ideas… I’ll need Steven’s and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game!” she exclaims.

And not only is Barbie unable to complete her own assignment of creating her own computer game without the help of Steven and Brian, she needs their help again when she unintentionally infects both her computer and Skipper’s computer with a virus. It’s almost as if the title should have been I Cannot Be a Computer Engineer, as Barbie seems intent on displaying repeatedly all the ways she is incompetent on the computer, rather than the book using a famous childhood icon to inspire girls to actually become computer engineers.

Step aside, little lady...let the menfolk handle this!
Step aside, little lady…let the menfolk handle this!

The book went viral this week, after Pamela Ribon wrote a spectacularly scathing review of it on Gizmodo called “Barbie F**ks It Up Again.”

Ribon apparently came across the book at a friend’s house. Her friend, who works in the computer field, had purchased it for her daughters, hoping that it would provide her daughters with a role model. Ribon quotes her friend in her article.

“Steven and Brian are nice guys, I’m sure. But Steven and Brian are also everything frustrating about the tech industry. Steven and Brian represent the tech industry assumption that only men make meaningful contributions. Men fix this, men drive this and men take control to finish this. Steven and Brian don’t value design as much as code. Steven and Brian represent every time I was talked over and interrupted — every time I didn’t post a code solution in a forum because I didn’t want to spend the next 72 years defending it. Steven and Brian make more money than I do for doing the same thing. And at the same time, Steven and Brian are nice guys.”

The official Facebook page for Barbie did respond to the criticism and issued a statement on the 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 girls imaginations and portray an empowered Barbie character.”

Barbie has inspired a lot of controversy, particularly in regards to female bodies, body perception, and ideas of feminine empowerment. But she isn’t the only girl on the block anymore — there’s a new take on fashion dolls for young girls to play with. This doll has a “healthy body shape” and comes with more realistic features, and it seems as though girls actually prefer her to the more unrealistic Barbie. For more on that, click here.

[Images via ABC News and blog.infoadvisors.com]