It's official: Barbie's a computer engineer!

Posted at 12:45 PM Feb 12, 2010

By Andrea Grimes

Epic Barbie win ... kind of. Last month, Mattel asked Barbie fans to vote on what the doll's next career should be, and the votes are in--Barbie's a computer engineer.

The engineering gig won the "popular vote," while news anchor won the "girls' vote." Not sure how those are different, but we have more pressing issues at hand: like, seriously, a pink laptop? And wait 'till you read after the jump, wherein Mattel provides a maddening WTF quote from a lady engineer.

But for now: I suppose one shouldn't be too picky, as it is Barbie after all. I think she had a pink dog or cat or something, so maybe extreme realism isn't what we should be hoping for. (To say nothing of her, er, less-than-realistic proportions, hah.) The winning profession was announced today at the New York Toy Fair. Per a Mattel press release:

To ensure the doll accurately reflects this occupation, Barbie® designers worked with the Society of Women Engineers and the National Academy of Engineering to ensure that accessories, clothing and packaging were realistic and representative of a real computer engineer. Looking geek chic, Computer Engineer Barbie® wears a t-shirt featuring binary code and computer/keyboard icon along with a pair of black knit skinny pants. Computer Engineer carries a Barbie® smart phone, fashionable laptop case, fl at watch and Bluetooth earpiece. With stylish pink-frame glasses and a shiny laptop, she is ready to conquer the day'stasks on the go or from her desk.
Oooh, geek chic! Buzzword alert! Barbie's wearing pink fashion sneakers in lieu of heels, and her flat-faced watch is definitely something my geeky lady friends prefer. And the new Barbie has the official blessing of the Society of Women Engineers:

"Girls who discover their futures through Barbie will learn that they - just like engineers - are free to explore infi nite possibilities, and that their dreams can go as far as their imaginations take them," said Nora Lin, President, Society of Women Engineers. "As a computer engineer, Barbie will show girls that women can design products that have an important and positive impact on people's everyday lives, such as inventing a technology to conserve home energy or programming a newborn monitoring device."
Wait, what? Did the president of the effing Society for Women Engineers seriously just suggest that girl engineers focus on ... babies ... and ... the home? No mention of robotics, aerospace, automotive engineering? Girls, you can be whatever you want! As long as you're still being a stereotypical lady version of whatever that is. Ugh.


E and O said:

on another blog I described this as a win in the way that having your dog pee on the tile floor instead of the carpet is a win. it's kinda... better? than what you had before? but in the end you still have to clean up pee.

This all just says "yes, little girls are free to imagine... as long as it's pink, pretty according to outdated white hetero male standards, and adhering to cartoon versions of actual women."

I want to know who these Women Engineers are that Mattel referenced for "realism." Because I don't know any engineers (or anyone else in the geek/tech industry) who dress like a special episode of Blossom: the Lohan Years. Who wears skintight leggings as pants in an office? Last I checked, flashing your bum and vag to your co-workers wasn't the key to success. Nor was blinding them with bad 80s dayglo prints.

And can we have a moratorium on the pink? I get it, she's a girl, so it's pink. Not just pink, but PRETTY PRETTY PRINCESS PINK. Ok, we know, we know. But could they tone it down a little? Pink glasses AND pink watch AND pink headset AND pink laptop AND pink in her clothes. I bet her shoes are even pink.

I don't know any adult female professional who has pink equipment or accessories unless they bought it for irony. Which I wouldn't bother to bring up had Mattel not made a point of how "realistic" the doll is.

And besides all that, the outfit is just a hot mess. I understand that this is for children so adjustments have to be made from adult realism. But seriously, Barbie has always been about fashion and this is just a screaming fashion train wreck. It looks like it was designed BY children instead of FOR children.

This to me is like Lifetime TV version of girl power: don't make any substantial changes, just slap on a laptop and glasses. Because glasses mean she's smart. Oh, and make it all pink.

ratatat said:

I don't think "conserve home energy" is a stereotypical lady thing. Everyone's got a home (except the homeless I guess). In fact, in my house, I'm the one usually adjusting the thermostat and turning off lights in empty rooms while the wife is burning styrofoam and strangling sea otters with those plastic 6-pack holders.

But beyond that, I'd like to object to the use of "geek chic". We who work with computers are not geeks or nerds or dorks. We're not carnies that bite the heads off chickens. We're just fucking smart, and rich. So fuck off Mattel, before we buy your company and pink-slip the asses of everyone in your PR/Marketing department that is calling us childish names.

LeeboZeebo said:

Am I the only one who also finds it amusing that the engineer version of Barbie has to wear pink framed glasses? What happened to her usual 20/20? I mean, yay for Barbie suddenly entering the modern world, but as a geek and a feminist I find it double offensive that Barbie has to embody both female AND nerd stereotypes.

I want to see engineer Barbie hunched over a desktop monitor at two in the morning surrounded by snack cake wrappers and empty Mountain Dew cans.

Lshygirl5 said:

I'll admit, I have a pink laptop, and I know that I've been socialized to like pink since birth,but hey, I like it. I think it's dumb that Barbie's laptop is immediately pink though, and I also think it's terrible that a female engineer would focus on engineering for the home or babies when encouraging girls to be engineers.

SJ said:

She is only legit if she asks you "Have you tried turning it on and off again?"

Bahweepgrana said:

Having been a computer engineer for many years now, I can safely say that of the three or four anglo female engineers I've encountered, none of them were as aesthetically pleasing as Barbie.

r4 kaart said:

I agree with E and O who wrote: "a win in the way that having your dog pee on the tile floor instead of the carpet is a win. it's kinda... better?" Barbie further pushes girls into gender roles and stereotypes as she would focus on engineering for the home or babies and by emphasizing pink as the feminine color.

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