I’m very ranty and angry today. A friend of mine shared an article, which I’ll get into in a minute, that really set me off, and hence an editorial post was born. I apologize, but I’m pretty upset, and just need to get it all out!
First, it started a couple months ago. My daughter was trying to do a jumping trick on her bike, and flew over the front of her handle bars and landed face first on the pavement….
It was a pretty traumatic experience for her, and we had to take her to the dentist because I was concerned about a couple of her teeth (since they are permanent teeth). The receptionist at the Dentist office was talking to my daughter about how she got hurt and then she said “oh, you should leave those stunts to the boys” EXCUSE ME? Nope, nope NOPE. I was pretty angry, but I’m not one to cause a scene so we quickly left, and I made sure that my daughter knew that she could try to do anything she wanted on her bike…. just to be a bit more careful next time.
I’m still mad about that encounter!
Then, yesterday… my friend Faiqa posted an article on Facebook about a new Barbie book. Now, when Barbie came out with their “I can be a….” line and there was a Computer Engineer doll I was SO excited. I purchased one for my daughter, and for a few of her friends for birthdays. Granted, my daughter’s never got played with since she has never had an interest in Barbie whatsoever, but I loved the fact that Barbie was encouraging girls to get into computers! That is until today.
In Barbie’s new book “I Can Be a Computer Engineer” Barbie can draw pretty pictures, but if she REALLY wants her game made she needs help from some boys. WHAT? Not only that, but she gives her laptop a VIRUS, and doesn’t know how to fix it!
Oh, don’t worry, she backs up her files on a heart shape necklace USB drive, but she loses all of Skipper’s music and homework, too bad so sad for Skipper.
There is so much wrong with this book!
First, why in the world can’t Barbie code the darn game herself? Seriously, what does that add to the story that she has to go to some guys for help. If you REALLY needed that aspect of the story, then why can’t she just go to a couple of her GIRL friends that are coders to help her make the game? Does it have to be guys? Absolutely not. Maybe even a mix of coders that are guys and girls would be fine, but to LAUGH and say, oh no… I can’t do any of the hard technical stuff… I just draw the pretty pictures and these guys over here are the ones that will do the “heavy lifting” for me.
Second, please for the love of all that is holy stop perpetuating the “I screw up technology because I’m a girl” fallacy. No ACTUAL computer engineer that I know gets their computers infected with viruses. I understand that sometimes technology can fail, and that can be an important part of the story, but how ’bout instead of being a moron and getting a virus, how’s about the RAM on the computer fails and she has to replace the RAM? She could show how SHE KNOWS how to take apart a computer and replace failed components. It would be such a better lesson for young girls to see Barbie actually taking apart the computer herself… as a REAL Computer Engineer would do.
But, no, she needs the guys’ help to fix her virus as well.
Then not only does she need the guys help to fix all the things that either she is too dumb to do, or doesn’t know how to do, then she’s a jerk about it and takes the credit for all of it and says… wow if I get other people to do my bidding then I can be a computer engineer too! NO.
So, here is what our girls can learn about being a computer engineer.
You can only draw pretty pictures and design a user interface
You can not code
You can not figure out what is wrong with your technology
You will give your computer a virus if you try to do stuff
You can take credit for other peoples work
Guys are the only ones who REALLY understand technology, you will need their help
Here is what our girls SHOULD learn about being a computer engineer (obviously not from this book).
You can create and code your own games and software
When something goes wrong you can figure out how to solve it, and then solve it
You can fix hardware issues
Collaboration is good (doesn’t necessarily have to be from guys, but find skilled collaborators and make sure to give credit where credit is due)
I don’t necessarily consider myself a “feminist”. I believe the word has a bad connotation these days, and doesn’t exactly describe my feelings on the subject. What I DO believe, though, is the fundamental differences between a man and a woman. We ARE different. Equality does not mean SAME for me. Equality means I have the same opportunities that everyone else has, and that the choice is up to me. The key here is choice. As a friend of mine recently stated, if we are able to choose the things we want to do in life, and are not limited by factors (such as gender) then equality exists, so that is what we need to strive for, the ability to choose.
I AM a “Computer Engineer” (which we’ll ignore the fact that people don’t use that as a job title, what I really am is an IT Manager). Everything about this book is exact opposite of a day in the life of me. How am I supposed to bring my daughter up in a world where at every turn she runs into people telling her that she can’t do really hard technical things, or that she can’t perform tricks on her bike, because of her gender. She shouldn’t WANT to learn how to do these things, because she is a girl?
I’m never one to call for a boycott, and really, it’s not like Barbie was getting any of my hard earned “Computer Engineer” money anyway. My daughter has never had an interest in Barbie, or dolls for that matter (she’d rather have yet another dragon to add to her vast collection).
What I DO want is for brands to be aware of the message they are putting out there. What may seem like a nice little “story” to you, can have harmful lasting effects on the future of women in STEM careers. If your brand is going to write a book about a “Computer Engineer” GO TALK TO A FEMALE COMPUTER ENGINEER. Better yet, have THEM write the book. It’s just like when people in movies throw out words like IP address in a totally wrong context that makes real computer people roll their eyes so hard that they go cross eyed. How hard is it to really get an experts opinion?
This book is a complete fail, and I for one am never buying another Barbie again (not that I was planning on buying one anyway, but still).
Barbie can officially suck it.
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Sarah Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 16 years of her career as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on KSL News, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website SarahKimmel.com