Why Barbie Why? Barbie as a Computer Scientist Fail

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Barbie Computer Engineer-embed

The nice part about being at Haverford is that I really feel empowered as a woman. Bryn Mawr’s right next door and there are many strong empowered smart women who serve as inspirations in the classroom and as staff members. While I wish there were more women of color to relate to and who might be better able to understand the different waters I have to navigate as a Latina, there are women in high powered positions so I feel capable of climbing up ladders and breaking glass ceilings.

For those who are not as fortunate to have great women to look up to, Mattel has created a Barbie to serve as an inspiration. This would be great if the book that accompanied it didn’t have some major flaws that actually make women look more like a joke in the STEM fields. The Daily Dot summarized it this way,

“The problematic part is that, as far as I can tell, the steps for becoming a computer engineer if you’re Barbie are:

  1. Design a videogame.
  2. Get a boy to code it for you.
  3. Accidentally infect your computer with a virus.
  4. Get a boy to fix it for you.
  5. Take all the credit for these things yourself.
    What she is really saying is that girls can't code and that girls in computer science are only good for doing the easier"art work.

    What she is really saying is that girls can’t code and that girls in computer science are only good for doing the easier”art work.

     

     

    In their efforts to encourage women Mattel really just furthered the stereotype of women just mooching off men in science. In the field of Computer Science as well as other STEMs there is a dearth of women in the field making it more difficult for women to get involved, let alone find a role model to encourage them and to get advice from. The number of women of color participating in STEM fields is even lower.

Luckily, some women decided to correct the mistake. Here are a few snippets from the remixed version.

http://caseyfiesler.com/2014/11/18/barbie-remixed-i-really-can-be-a-computer-engineer/

barbieremix9barbieremix11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favorite was the little nudge to breaking the stereotype of the hyper-masculine black male. Sadly Mattel missed many opportunities to help feminism and to show what life as a woman in the sciences is really like. Mattel did issue an apology according to GeekWire  but it wasn’t well received.

I invite you to look at the discussions and the points made. One friend, a female engennering masters student found the doll encouraging as she used it to help her recruit other women into the computer science field since they could not imagine themselves coding or building circuits. I personally felt that the book was done in poor taste and undermined the struggle women in the sciences face. Is something better than nothing as we try to encourage women to pursue STEM?

First Year Student Refelects on the Multicultural Leadership Institute

Diversity and related taboo issues have always captured my interest, and at Multicultural Leadership Institute we dug into these topics every day as whole group of 30 freshmen and also in smaller groups with a Student Resource Person (SRP) leader. We had about 3 workshops per day, and our topics included Socioeconomic Class, Privilege, Race, Gender & Sexuality, Spirituality & Religion, and Leadership. As we delved into these heavy topics, we really got to know one another on a concrete and fundamental level within only a few days—something I had not experienced with previous classmates I had known for years. It was freeing to be able to speak honestly with each other, without the fear of becoming an outcast or being labeled in a negative way.

My favorite workshop was the Spirituality and Religion Workshop. There were students who had grown up in one denomination or religion but had switched to another, those that were unsure about the religion that they had grown up with, and those who had followed the same religion their entire lives. As this was one of our final workshops, we had gotten to know each other well beforehand and were comfortable enough to go around the circle and share a statement about our religious background. Even being in a room of friends, sharing my Christian identity was still scary. However, openly discussing our faiths ended up being an empowering experience. I am less afraid of rejection. I know that if I discuss my faith with people who are close minded or rude, I won’t take derogatory comments as personally now because their intolerance is their problem, not mine. With this confidence, I can continue to love those who reject and belittle my beliefs without feeling insecure.

—Alexis Etzkorn ’15