Barbie As Computer Engineer

So if you’re a tech person with Facebook, you probably already know about this. Here’s the article where I learned about a book wherein Barbie is supposedly an awesome computer engineer. At the bottom of the article, you can see an update where the brand has apologized for this atrocity.

There are many problems with this story, and most are outlined in the article. However, the biggest problem I have with it is that at no point does Barbie do anything remotely resembling computer engineering. First of all, while the term “computer engineer” can mean a software engineer, it normally means a hardware engineer. I’m a professional software engineer, and completely without knowledge of hardware engineering. I buy my computer towers pre-built and don’t muck about inside them. I make my boyfriend plug in gaming systems so I can use them. Nobody at any point in this story does anything that is hardware engineering. Secondly, a software engineer writes code. Barbie only did design, and clearly mostly graphics at that. That requires nothing more technical than photoshop.

Of course, design and specifically graphics design are very important parts of the development process. In fact, they are vital. Without design, we wouldn’t know what to code! But design and computer engineering are not the same thing. One could argue that the boys did some computer engineering by fixing the virus situation and saving the files, but I would honestly classify that as more tech support than anything. In a sense, nobody anywhere in the story does anything deserving of the name engineering!

Further, if you infect not just one but TWO computers with a virus, and are or aspire to be a computer engineer, you should not be admired. You should be mocked. I’m saying this as someone who has infected my own computer with a virus, despite being a professional software engineer. I was mocked, and I deserved it – but I was also able to fix the problem without throwing up my hands and getting two male friends to do it for me. (I might have asked Google and my boyfriend for advice, not sure now, but I’m sure I followed the instructions that I received on my own.)

Those are the two problems I have with the book that are not outlined in the article, but I agree with most of the other criticisms.

On a wider note, I can’t say that I have experienced any of the “boys club” frustrations that the article describes. I’m honestly not sure why this is. Maybe it has to do with starting in an office that already had female developers. Maybe I just fit in with the guys fairly well. Maybe I just don’t notice. Maybe I’ve proven myself to be just as good as the guys. Once, one of my co-workers asked if it was weird for me being the only girl on lunch trips, and it’s honestly not. That’s the closest I’ve gotten to experiencing casual workplace misogyny, unless you count not feeling comfortable saying “I’m working from home today because my period just started.”


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