The holiday season is always a chilling time for me, witnessing the mad rush of consumerism that now blatantly supersedes any pretense of familial bonding. On this topic, I was amused to hear of Mattel’s timely release of a new book entitled Barbie: I can be a Computer Engineer. Sounds great, or as good as we can expect from a toy giant like Mattel that thrives on creating a gendered toy market! But alas, apparently (somehow!) they fell short of the mark on this one. Al Jazeera America reported that :
[Mattel faced] widespread backlash for featuring Barbie as an engineer who needed the help of men to develop software. Barbie, opponents charged, left the technical work to the boys.
Out of this fiasco emerged one of my favorite things: random acts of feminism through social media! The twitter handle #FeministHackerBarbie was created, and better yet a Feminist Hacker Barbie website that allows users to submit new text for the book’s original illustrations.
The image above shows one scene from the book that that has frustrated readers, epitomizing Barbie’s inability to fully realize her dream career. Pictured at right is a sample of one person’s rewrite from the website.
Are we overreacting to Mattel’s attempts to open young girls up to careers in the STEM fields? Or did Mattel fear some larger blow-back for the gendered toy industry if they fully placed girls on an equal playing field as boys? They did end up pulling the book off of the market and releasing this statement:
The portrayel of Barbie in this specific story does not 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.
(Note the phrase “*believe* they live in a world without limits.” That would be a bit misleading, no?)
My question is, what happens behind the scenes at those companies that no one predicted this backlash?!
— Caterina Gironda, Southern Editor
Image on homepage from a Chyaz.com blog post on Toys and Gender Segregation.
In text images from FeministHackerBarbie website.