Barbie is one educated and versatile woman. She’s been, among dozens of other jobs, a dentist, a doctor, a sign language teacher, a special education teacher, a surgeon, a paratrooper, a jet pilot, an ambassador, a firefighter, an architect, an astronaut, a ballerina, a chef, an Olympic gymnast, an unspecified business executive, a news anchor, a cat burglar, a magazine editor, and the president of the United States. And now, per the book I Can Be a Computer Engineer, she’s a computer engineer (or at least can be one).
That’s awesome! A fun, accessible intro to computer science, courtesy of the U.S.’s favorite fashion doll. Good for you, Barbie.
Yet somehow, writer Pamela Ribon has problems with it.
“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!”
“…,” Caperton says, not laughing. “Barbie, that’s not actually computer engineering. That’s coming up with design ideas and then punting to actual computer engineers.” That said, the title is I CAN Be a Computer Engineer, not I AM a Computer Engineer, so maybe, at some point during the course of the book, she learns to do some actual coding.
So Barbie tries to actually use her computer, but it starts blinking, and despite the team effort of Barbie and Skipper, it won’t reboot, so they come to the conclusion that it’s a virus! But it’s cool, because Barbie backed up her stuff on a flash drive she wears as a necklace. (I have no objection to that. I am the proud owner of this bomb-ass flash drive, and it is sparkly and awesome.)
Her own computer now useless, Barbie badgers Skipper into letting her use her laptop, and when she plugs in her flash drive… more blinking. Because the virus was backed up on Barbie’s flash drive, and now all of Skipper’s homework and music is gone.
I Can Be an Incompetent Who Should Only Be Trusted with Notebook Paper.
So Barbie takes her problem to Ms. Smith, her computer science teacher — because Barbie is already taking a computer class — who directs her to Brian and Steven to do the hard work. Now, I don’t actually object to Brian and Steven taking over for her entirely and not teaching her how to do it, because she has at this point probably managed to contract the computer virus herself and will expose the entire library to her eBola. But the fact that it was two male classmates doing the work — and not, say, Ms. Smith herself, who ostensibly has sufficient expertise to be able to teach a class on the subject — sounds like it could be less than inspiring to girls who have been led to believe that they, and not just just their best friend’s older brother, Can Be a Computer Engineer.
So the dudes step in and save the day, and Barbie gives Skipper her laptop back, homework intact. Of course, Skipper is elated.
“My lost assignment!” cries Skipper. “You are just too cool, Barbie! You fixed my computer and saved my homework!”
Skipper gives Barbie a huge hug.
This one is actually on Skipper, I’d say. Having watched Barbie brick not one but two laptops, to assume that she was then able to fix them both and save the day is pretty ridiculous. “‘My lost assignment!’ cries Skipper. ‘Who fixed my computer? Was it Ms. Smith? I really owe her a high-five and a fruit basket.'” There, I’ve fixed your dialogue for you.
Then Skipper goes to school and presents the paper she’s been working on before Barbie screwed everything up.
At school, Skipper presents her assignment to the class. “Hi, everybody,” she says. “The person I admire most is Barbie — a great sister and a great computer engineer!” Everyone is impressed by Skipper’s presentation.
First of all: That is not an impressive presentation. The world would have lost nothing if Typhoid Barbie’s virus had eaten it for good.
Second of all: See above re: not a computer engineer. Unless you ask Ms. Smith, whose own competence I begin to question.
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.
Normally, this would be the part where I’d say something empowering, like, “Yes, Barbie! You can be a computer engineer! With training, and with a real understanding of what computer engineers actually do, it’s within your ability to pick up the skill.” Like I’d say to other girls who expressed an interest in computer science. The thing is that Barbie hasn’t provided evidence of anything other than asking boys to do the work for her. For that matter, Ms. Smith hasn’t provided evidence of anything other than asking boys to do the work. It’s a book ostensibly written to encourage girls who might be interested in computers but lacking the confidence to get involved, and the only message is, “Computer engineering is a snap! All it takes is a boy standing by to do the actual work!”
So to Barbie, I can only say that no, you can’t be a computer engineer. You can sit at your desk and write your assignments with a BIC Cristal For Her ballpoint pen and then pay Skipper to type them up for you.
As for girls in need of real computer science inspiration, aghast Internetters have made a few edits here and there.
“Who uses the async module like this?” Barbie muttered. “You two idiots shouldn’t be standing there like you’re proud of what you’ve done.”
I Can Let the Guys Step Aside, Please, While I Fix This Stuff You Screwed Up.
[h/t The Verge]
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