When Geeks Attack: Mattel Apologizes for ‘Barbie Can’t Code’ Book

barbie computer designer

Graphic artist? Maybe. Engineer? Not so much. 

According to Mattel (BarbieMedia.com), Barbie has held more than 150 different jobs “spanning from registered nurse to rock star, veterinarian to aerobics instructor, pilot to police officer.”

Maybe a temp pool is next for the former bikini model?

Her latest career turn had many people in the tech world irate because of a seemingly sexist approach: seems Barbie can’t do much with a computer beyond plugging it in.

In a book called Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer, Barbie seems very underqualified.

She’s working on a game starring a robot puppy, but…

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

mattel-screenshotAnd that’s where the #PRFail begins, according to CNET.com:

From there, the book spirals downward. Barbie’s computer starts blinking, which she pegs as the result of a virus. On a positive note, she is good about backing up her data onto a heart-shaped flash drive she wears as a necklace. However, that flash drive turns out to be the source of the virus, which she promptly infects her sister’s computer with.

Although the book was originally published in 2010, the complaints didn’t shown up until author and screenwriter Pamela Ribon posted an article on her personal blog after saw the book at a friend’s house. Jezebel and other sites picked the story up.

And that led to Mattel offering an apology four years in the making (as seen in GeekWire and via Barbie’s Facebook page):

The Barbie I Can Be A Computer Engineer book was published in 2010. Since that time we have reworked our Barbie books. 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 girl’s imaginations and portray an empowered Barbie character.

If you are the director of a digital agency, may we suggest the Barbie Computer Engineer action figure as a stocking stuffer? It may help provide stress relief to your coders: all they have to do is hurl it across the room as hard as they can!