Mattel Apologizes for Incompetent Computer Engineer Barbie

Mattel Apologizes for Incompetent Computer Engineer Barbie Photo (cc) by E Steuer

The makers of Barbie have apologized.

In a Facebook post, Mattel said it was sorry its Computer Engineer Barbie book didn’t reflect Mattel’s belief that “girls should be empowered to understand that anything is possible and believe they live in a world without limits.”

The apology came after widespread online criticism that the book, written in 2010, is sexist, according to Today. Random House told Today it was “discontinuing print and ebook publication” of the controversial book.

“Customers have been posting negative reviews of the book on Amazon since 2013, but outrage on the Amazon listing and doll’s Facebook page reached a critical mass after the book was flagged this week by the websites Pamie and Consumerist,” The Huffington Post said.

At first glance, “Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer” seems innocent enough, until you read it. Barbie is portrayed as totally incompetent and dependent on men to help her, even when it comes to tasks as simple as restarting her computer. Remember, she’s supposed to be a computer engineer. My 18-month-old rebooted my computer last week (by accident, but still).

TechCrunch’s description of the Barbie computer engineer character is regrettably accurate:

Barbie is featured in the book as a stylishly pink-clad computer engineer that somehow breaks everything and doesn’t know how to code. She does draw puppies though. This lady hacker needs the help of two dudes named Steve and Brian to do the real programming work cuz she’s just, “creating design ideas.” Ha ha ha … what?

Barbie also infects her sister Skipper’s computer with a virus, deleting all her files, including her homework. But don’t worry, the boys in the book – Brian and Steve – fix all the computer problems for Barbie and Skipper.

As a mother of a 4-year-old daughter, I find it depressing that some companies continue to create products that, deliberately or not, tell girls that they can’t do things as well as boys or portray girls as princesses who only like pink and dolls and other “girly” things.

But I’m hopeful that times are changing, albeit slowly. Companies like GoldieBlox are creating toys to inspire a future generation of female engineers. And A Mighty Girl sells toys meant to empower girls. It’s time that companies recognize that girls are far more than pretty princesses.

What do you think about Mattel’s apology? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

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