If you're starting your Christmas shopping early, first of all, thanks for making me feel guilty for not doing so yet; and second of all, you might be on the lookout for some feminist gift ideas for the young ladies in your life. If your daughter, niece, or grandchild is a Barbie fan already, a title like Barbie: I Can Be A Computer Engineer might catch your eye, but don't be deceived: as The Mary Sue reports, this book is a big a pile of sexist dreck as you're likely to find in the bookstore.
The book's one redeeming grace is that it does, at least, entertain the titular idea that Barbie could be a computer engineer, rather than insisting she stay at home in the kitchen to make dinner and/or babies for Ken. It opens with Barbie telling her sister Skipper about a video game idea she came up with: getting a computer-animated robot puppy to do 'cute tricks' if you solve the game's puzzles. Barbie also mentions in passing that this game is meant to teach kids how computers work, which should be your first warning sign that Barbie, perhaps, has no freaking idea how they work herself. But then, when it comes to actually writing the code for the game, there's just one little problem:
Haha, silly Skipper! Girls can't actually write code! Leave that to the menfolk, sweetie.
Just in case the main character of a book called I Can Be A Computer Engineer handing over the actual computer engineering tasks to the fellas wasn't bad enough for you, the book isn't content to let Barbie off the hook for her gender just yet. As she's talking to Skipper, her computer promptly goes on the fritz. Poor, sweet Barbie attempts the tried-and-true computer engineer's solution known as "turn it off and on again", but no luck: Barbie has apparently not kept up with her McAfee updates, and computer has a virus. Luckily, she backs up all her important files on a flash drive. A pink, heart-shaped flash drive that she wears as a necklace. She'll just move her files to Skipper's computer, right? WRONG.
Poor trusting Skipper allows Barbie to take over her computer, and the unthinkable (by which I mean 'the totally predictable') happens:
Let's be real, I would look exactly like Skipper does here if Doofus Barbie had just murdered my laptop with her stupid virus-infected flash drive. My precioussss!
Barbie here has made a serious hash of things, but don't worry, because help is on the way in the form of Barbie's competent male friends, Steven and Brian. The guys show up while Barbie is trying to fix her laptop (ha ha ha, haven't you done enough damage already, Barbie?) and tell her to just hand the computer over to them, because they'll be able to fix it faster. Spoiler alert: they can.
Barbie proceeds to take credit for fixing Skipper's laptop as well as for the robot-puppy game Steven and Brian code for her. I'm assuming this is somehow going to wind up in the #GamerGate cannon as fodder for "ethics in gaming journalism" arguments. (It would make about as much sense as any of their other complaints.) Barbie's professor even gives her extra credit for 'her' work! Good job, Barbie! Make your way into the tech industry on the stolen labor of others, because god knows a woman can't succeed in technical fields on the basis of her own work!
Do you remember the "math is hard" Barbie doll from the early 1990s? From where I'm sitting, it looks like we haven't made a lot of progress on that front. Instead of "math class is tough," we have Barbie more or less saying that girls don't have a place in computer science, at least not outside of non-technical art and design roles. As a former software tester, I say: screw that. And as the mom of a daughter, let me also add: Barbie, I'm very disappointed in you.