Barbie has had a rough year having to defend her appearance and it only got worse after the internet got wind of a book called, Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer that was originally published in 2010. The book showed Barbie coming up with an idea for her own video game which is a great start, however any actual engineering was done by her friends Steven and Brian, not Barbie herself. Needless to say, internet anger ensued as The Inquisitrreported and now Mattel has caved to the pressure and pulled sales of the book and offered and apology.
“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.”
Very few topics can illicit such emotional and wide spread reactions as female empowerment in the technology field. One look at the video game industry and the GamerGate controversy that is still simmering shows the power of the internet when it is at full saturation.
Familiar cries of “regressive gender stereotyping”, “sexism” and “misogyny” along with other buzz words surfaced when images of the book appeared such as the original coverage on BuzzFeed. Within a day, an information cascade was reached as virtually every gaming and tech news site was reporting on the book with derision.
A simple search of the hashtag #FeministHackerBarbie will lead you to a NSFW result of memes raking the book over the coals by pointing out one of the core problems that Barbie herself never did any actual computer engineering.
While many people had a sarcastic and rather vulgar reaction, one PhD student made her own PDF version of the book which had a much more plausible storyline in which Barbie is part of a team acknowledging the group effort required to make a large project such as a video game.
The delayed response to the book ended with the ceasing of sales by Mattel and a public apology on the official Barbie Facebook page.
[Image Source | Mattel]