13 Feb

Computer engineer Barbie

Barbie has her 125th career – computer engineer! There’s been a few comments around about how Mattel are pandering to further stereotypes – sticking her in a pair of pink glasses is enough to insinuate that she’s now “intellectual”. I don’t think that’s all that bad. The glasses thing, sure, I’m a bit biased, but I don’t see anything wrong with putting Barbie in a pair of specs for her computer engineering job. It’s not an entirely false correlation. Many people who work on computers need glasses because they stare into the pixel void for 12 hours a day. So what? I think it’s kind of cute – and why not portray a computer engineer as cutesy? The fact is, that’s the only wearable “accessory” they felt she needed to portray her new job. That’s right, isn’t it? What more do you want? Computer engineers should look however they like – there’s no uniform. The bluetooth headset is a bit daft, but small details.

Rachel Andrew blogged today about a very sad incident yesterday, where herself and her fellow female speakers were mocked by audience members of Boag World’s live podcast event. Essentially, viewers in the backchannel decided to concentrate on their physical attributes rather than their well educated views, with suggestions that they were far too good-looking and well presented to be there for their abilities alone.

Rachel has rightfully pointed out that such behaviour shouldn’t be tolerated, but she also writes about how women in technology shouldn’t be encouraged to dress down or become more tom-boyish just to feel accepted or to avoid attention.

Barbie has a whole host of more fundamental reasons why she’s probably a poor role-model for little girls (her figure is the obvious one), but I don’t think having her careers be varied and non-traditional is one of them. I’m actually into the idea of a Barbie that helps to say that it’s okay to be as girly-a-girl as you want to be and work in traditionally male dominated industries. And hey, I think glasses look cool.

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