Mattel recently released a new Barbie book entitled “Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer.” Judging from the title and cover, the book would seem like it might be about Barbie’s journey to becoming a coding master, and in turn, it will inspire many young girls to dream of becoming computer engineers themselves. However, what the story entails is completely the opposite.
The story begins on a quaint morning. Barbie is typing away on her laptop. Barbie’s little sister Skipper asks her what she’s up to, and she enthusiastically responds that she’s designing a game for children. Skipper asks if he can play the game she’s designing, but Barbie shrugs happily and says, “I’m only creating the design ideas. I’ll need Steven and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game!”
It’s all downhill from there. Barbie’s computer almost immediately gets infected with a virus, and somehow ends up infecting Skipper’s computer as well. It turns out Barbie’s trusty flash drive was carrying some mysterious virus. Later on at school, she asks her computer science teacher, Mrs. Smith about how she can reboot a computer and retrieve any lost files. Mrs. Smith explains that as long as her computer has security software, then it shouldn’t be a problem to reboot the computer and save the files.
Despite Mrs. Smith’s simple and easy explanation, it doesn’t stop Barbie from making a trip to the library and asking Steven and Brian for their help…to reboot her and Skipper’s computers and figure out how to send those game designs.
The real clincher, “It will go faster if Brain and I help,” offers Steven.
Some meager elbow grease later, both laptops are fixed, files are rescued, and all is well in Barbie land. The next day, Barbie presents the ideas she designed for her game, and Mrs. Smith gives her extra credit.
A book that was intended to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) did the opposite, and pretty much reinforced gender roles in an industry dominated by males. Fortunately, Casey Fiesler and Miranda Parker are two brazen female coders who decided to “remix” the book by replacing passages with funny, more realistic and empowering scenarios. Check out their new version here.