Barbie can be anything she wants to be. She can be president. She can be a sports star. She can be a computer engineer. Except she’ll need a man’s help to be the latter. As the Guardian points out, in one of the new I Can Be… books from Mattel/Random House, the fashion doll is breaking gender stereotypes about women in the workplace, but only up to a point: “In a book intended to inspire young girls, Barbie the programmer, who wears a pink heart-shaped USB drive around her neck, needs help to reboot her computer. And one passage from the book reveals that this computer engineer cannot even code.” A scene from the book shows Barbie explaining her job designing a computer game, before she apologizes for her lack of knowledge. “I’m only creating the design ideas,” Barbie says, laughing. “I’ll need Steven and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game!”
Reviews on Amazon have not been kind. “How did Mattel fail so badly at creating this book?” asks one reviewer, while another comments “Mattel should be ashamed for publishing this misogynistic nonsense.” Several bloggers have pointed out the book’s sexism, and at least one is trying to fix it. “A ‘Feminist Hacker Barbie’ website is now taking in submissions for suggested amendments to the book, to help portray Barbie as ‘the competent, independent, bad-ass engineer that she wants to be’.” Mattel has responded to the criticism by pulling down the book from Amazon.