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The Fiasco Called Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer

As part of a series of children's books on careers, Mattel and Random House published the book Barbie: I Can be a Computer Engineer. A look inside the book might surprise you.

Although the book’s title would indicate that its fights stereotypes against the tech industry’s gender gap, readers only need only get it to the second page to find out that Barbie is completely incompetent. While she’s capable of conceptualizing a game about a cute robot puppy (gender cliche, but we were ready to go with it — who doesn’t like robot puppies?), Barbie needs boys to actually do the computer programing for her. When Skipper asks if she can see the program, “Barbie says, laughing, ‘I’ll need Steven’s and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game!’” Silly Skipper and your high expectations!

The rest of the book is not much different: Barbie gets help from the boys after she gets a computer virus and loses her sister's files. The book has been out for a couple of years at least, but it recently came to the attention of the internet thanks to a thorough deconstruction by comedian Pamela Ribbon (which contains a profanity in the post title). Since then, Mattel has issued an apology, the book’s author has blamed Mattel, and the book is nowhere to be found on Amazon.

(Image source: Rebecca Maines)

However, the book has already been re-written by scores of people, using this generator. You can see some examples at Gizmodo, plus the Amazon reviews that no longer exist. Find plenty more at Twitter under the hashtag #FeministHackerBarbie. Most are hilarious, and not suitable for children. But one remix is.

Computer scientist Casey Fiesler rewrote the entire book completely snark-free for children and made it available for download.


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