A Barbie book, created for youngsters, has generated a negative social media stir, with many saying the book is sexist and reinforces harmful gender stereotypes.
The book is titled, “Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer,” and it portrays Barbie as wanting to create a video game, but in order to do so she must enlist the help of her male companions.
“I'm only creating the design ideas,” Barbie says in the book, according to USA Today. “I'll need Steven's and Brian's help to turn it into a real game!”
Later in the story, Barbie’s computer gets a virus and she can’t fix it.
“It will go faster if Brian and I help,” Steven says to her before the boys fix the problem.
That’s the wrong message to send to young girls, says parent Susan Wallis who spoke to KGO-TV.
“She didn't actually fix it. They fixed it,” she said. “I think unfortunately Barbie is sometimes a little behind the times. So it sounds like in this case that could be happening again.”
Response to the book has been mostly negative, but not without humor.
“As a computer engineer and the father of two daughters who are both in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, my only recommendation for this book would be to set it on fire,” wrote one reviewer on Amazon.
Kathleen Tuite, a self-proclaimed “rogue hacker” created a website, Feminist Hacker Barbie, that allows users to rewrite the book, editing out the gender stereotypes.
Lori Pantel, a vice president for Barbie’s Global Brand Marketing, conducted a little damage control.
Although Amazon lists the book’s publishing date as July 2013, Pantel told Time magazine the book was actually first released in 2010 and that Barbie creators have since worked to improve the books.
“The portrayal of Barbie in this specific story doesn’t reflect the brand’s vision for what Barbie stands for,” Pantel said. “We believe girls should be empowered to understand that anything is possible and believe they live in a world without limits. We apologize that this book didn’t reflect that belief. All Barbie titles moving forward will be written to inspire girls imaginations and portray an empowered Barbie character.”