Feminist Hackers Fix Book So ‘Computer Engineer Barbie’ Won’t Need Boys To Mansplain Stuff (IMAGES)

Barbie’s one of those things we either love or hate. The blonde, plastic icon’s defenders have long praised Barbie as a protean “girls-can-do-anything” feminist role model who pursues many careers with grace and panache.

Alas, “I Can Be A Computer Engineer” — Mattel’s latest addition to Barbie’s aspirational “I Can Be” line of books for little girls — leaves much to be desired. Written by Susan Marenco and published by Random House, this throw-back to the “Mad Men” era would be better titled, “I Can’t Really Be A Computer Engineer, Coding’s For Boys, Tee Hee!” Plus… what the heck is a “computer engineer?” Does such a job title actually exist?

And “I Can Be A Computer Engineer” belittles Barbie’s non-existent computer skills from the get-go, when she declares:

“I’m only creating the design ideas,” Barbie says, laughing. “I’ll need Steven’s and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game!”

Barbie designs a computer game with a cute li’l robo-pup, but she needs her two guy friends to do the actual programming. She then manages to get her pink laptop and her little sister Skipper’s laptop infected with a virus, and would have lost all their data if it weren’t for her white knights, Steven and Brian, coming to the rescue with their technical, mansplaining prowess. Thanks, Mattel. What kind of message are you sending to our nation’s little girls?

As Pamela Ribon angrily seethes on Gizmodo:

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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. Just about every review we could find on this book had readers equally offended and frustrated.

“I Can Be A Computer Engineer” is a belated follow up to Mattel’s Computer Engineer Barbie doll, introduced in 2010 after Barbie fans voted for it as Barbie’s 126th career in a contest. Because, here in America, nothing ever gets created without some product tie-in. And, to add insult to injury, Barbie’s new high-tech career doesn’t even merit its own book! Flip the book over, and you’ve got, “I Can Be An Actress.” Tee hee.

Barbie computer engineer book and doll.

Photo: Composite/Mattel marketing materials.

Luckily, the tech-savvy folks at Feminist Hackers — who actually do know how to write code — created an online app so we can go in make some desperately-needed edits to this vile travesty of a book.

The original “I Can Be A Computer Engineer” has an excited Skipper asking Barbie if she can play the game her older sister has supposedly created. Alas, it turns out that Barbie isn’t a real programmer. Actually, she’s more like a game designer.

“Your robot puppy is so sweet,” says Skipper. “Can I play your game?” “I’m only creating the design ideas,” Barbie says, laughing, “I’ll need Steven’s and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game!”

This writer doesn’t know what’s more offensive. The fact that Barbie automatically defaults to drawing cute lil’ robo-puppies; Or that she can’t actually do her own programming; Or the fact that our society regards Barbie’s artistic talents as worthless. Creating appealing images and workable user interface designs requires as much skill, training, and experience as “computer engineering,” but the Masters of the Universe have arbitrarily decided that isn’t worth as much. And guess what? As more women start pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers like software programming, those jobs will start paying less. Because that’s how it works.

Luckily, someone at Feminist Hackers changed that page from the story to this:

Corrected page from Barbie computer engineering book.

“Your robot puppy is so sweet,” says Skipper. “Thanks. And since I programmed his collar to be a wifi interceptor, I think I will call him WarDoggeh. Watch out, Steven and Brian!” said Barbie.

As the story progresses, Barbie tries to email her designs to the (male) “real” programmers, and — oh no! — her computer  does “something weird” because it has a virus. Incompetent “Computer Engineer” Barbie then manages to also infect Skipper’s laptop. Which destroys the homework she’s worked so hard on and all her music files! But instead of getting angry — because girls are never supposed to get angry! — Skipper just “playfully” hits her sister with a pillow and says she’d better get her laptop fixed. REALLY? WTF?

“I’m so sorry, Skipper,” says Barbie. “I have to run off to school now. But I promise to find a way to fix your laptop.” “You better!” Skipper replies as she playfully hits Barbie with a pillow.

Thank goodness a more realistic person has Skipper hitting Barbie angrily with a cement pillow!

A more realistic version of Skipper's reaction after Barbie wrecks her laptop.

I’m so sorry Skipper,” says Barbie. “I have to run off to school now. But I promise to find a way to fix your laptop.” “You better!” Skipper replies as she angrily hits barbie with a cement pillow.

Then, our damsel in distress runs into Steven and Brian at the school library and explains why she hasn’t sent them her designs so they can do the “real” work. Yay! Now they can rescue her!

After class, Barbie meets with Steven and Brian in the library. “Hi, guys,” says Barbie. I tried to send you my designs, but I ended up crashing my laptop–and Skipper’s, too! I need to get back the lost files and repair both of our laptops.

Feminist Hacker Barbie, on the other hand, doesn’t need any rescuing because DJ Fortran 1337 (Fortran? Now that’s [email protected]!) has her too busy taking down the Ku Klux Klan while the guys were slacking off.

Computer Engineer Barbie hacking the KKK.

After class, Barbie meets with Steven and Brian in the library. “Hi, guys,” says Barbie. “While you were drinking protein shakes at the frat house, I took down 5 KKK websites and got the Grand Wizard’s SSN & credit cards. Let’s order him 9000 dildos!

Oh, and here’s where we get the the mansplaining part, where Steven and Brian rescue Barbie, because “it’ll go faster” if they help, and she’s too lame to even fix her own computer. Some freaking “Computer Engineer.”

It will go faster if Brian and I help,” offers Steven. “Great!” says Barbie. “Steven, can you hook Skipper’s hard drive up to the library’s computer?” “Sure!” says Steven. “The library computer has excellent security software to protect it.

We prefer the one where Barbie tells what’s-his-face to get his hand off the monitor cable and do something useful, because really, how will disconnecting the monitor solve anything? Besides, if Barbie’s school’s anything like this writer’s daughter’s school, the library computers won’t let you do that.

Computer Engineer Barbie to mansplainers: Get your hands off the monitor cable and do something useful.

“It will go faster if Brian and I help,” offers Steven. “Great! says Barbie. “How ’bout you stop f*cking around with the monitor cable and actually do something useful?”

Or, in this scenario, Steven’s the one with the busted pink laptop and Barbie’s the one who knows how to fix it.

Barbie computer monitor cable VPN Kickstarter

“My PC runs Windows which is backdoored and makes my brain bleed,” complains Steven. “Don’t worry!” says Barbie. “Steven, just boot this Linux live cd and run Debian instead.” “Sure!” says Steven. “Also, let’s try this VPN router which I ordered from Kickstarter without knowing how it works.”

Towards the end, Barbie still gets an A, plus extra credit, for “saving the day” even though she was the one who actually wrecked it to begin with. Because, tee hee, computer stuff’s too difficult for her tiny widdle brain.

At computer class, Barbie presents the game she designed. Ms. Smith is so impressed that she gives Barbie extra credit! Barbie’s terrific computer skills have saved the day for both sisters! “I guess I can be a computer engineer!” says Barbie happily.

In Feminist Hacker’s alternative universe, Computer Engineer Barbie uses her mad skillz to perform a valuable service for mankind: She helps #StopRush rid the world of Rush Limbaugh’s stupefyingly vile, hateful garbage once and for all. Thank you, Feminist Hacker Barbie!

Barbie #StopRush

At computer class, cat Lady Barbie presents the Super Secret Illicit Software she designed. Ms. Smith is so impressed that she gives Barbie extra credit! Barbies terrific computer skills have saved the day for #stoprush. “Guess I CAN rid the world of Rush’s filth and piss of Brian too!” says Barbie happily.

To create your own version of “Barbie: I Can Be A Computer Engineer,” visit Feminist Hacker Barbie.


h/t The Verge and Gizmodo. Featured image: Adapted from “Barbie: I Can Be A Computer Engineer,” and Feminist Hacker Barbie.