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Mattel Under Fire For Sexist Computer Engineer Barbie Book

Mattel is quickly back-pedaling after its Barbie ‘I Can Be a Computer Engineer’ book has left women, particularly those working in the technology field, seething.

Although the book was actually published in 2010, it has gone viral this week after gaining attention for a story that many are calling sexist and outdated. The book depicts Barbie as a computer engineer who relies on the help of men for all of the hardest parts of the job — coding for example. Only when it comes to the design aspects is she depicted as competent.

After receiving a flood of negative reviews for its portrayal of Barbie as a clueless female in a man’s world, the book has been pulled from Amazon.com.

Author and screenwriter Pamela Ribon discovered the book at the home of her friend Helen Jane and, after flipping through it, was angry enough to take to her personal blog to call Mattel out for its sexism.

“Helen Jane and I were so livid after reading this book we spent the first fifteen minutes spitting out syllables and half-sounds,” Ribon writes. “We’d go from outraged to defeated to livid in the span of ten seconds. “I want this thing to start a meme of girls screaming, ‘I don’t need a Brian or a Steven!’”

“We knew we had to share this with you, because if we didn’t, we’d be saying it was okay. We couldn’t just roll our eyes at how insulting this book is, how dangerous it is for young minds, how it’s a perfect example of the way women and girls are perceived to ‘understand’ the tech world, and how frustrating it can be when nobody believes this is how we’re treated.”

The post, which is also available on Tumblr, also takes the reader through the story and points out all the places where it went so woefully wrong, such as this quote from the book:

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 10.41.59 AM

Ribon is not alone in her anger over the book. Many reviewers on Amazon were similarly insulted.

“I work as a software engineer, which is a male dominated field,” writes reviewer Rachel Appel. “It is exactly these stereotypes and portrayals of girls like the one in this book that are the driving force behind the lack of girls wanting to enter these lucrative technology fields. This book is part of the problem. I hope Random House replaces this book with something more appropriate for children.”

Mattel says the problem stems from the book being published four years ago. Since then, apparently, Barbie has been given a more competent image.

“The ‘Barbie I Can Be A Computer Engineer’ book was published in 2010. Since that time we have reworked our Barbie books,” says vice-president of global brand marketing for Barbie Lori Pantel in a statement to the media.

“The portrayal of Barbie in this specific story doesn’t 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. We apologize that this book didn’t reflect that belief. All Barbie titles moving forward will be written to inspire girls imaginations and portray an empowered Barbie character.”

Maybe that means Barbie will be CEO of a technology company in Mattel’s next book, even if her power suit is pink.

About the author

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Jennifer Cowan

Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.

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