This is the letter I wrote to Random House regarding the book I will be talking about on an upcoming podcast. I’ve been asking for comments from them and in general women in the IT world, as well as a few of the more strong woman leaders like Laci Green who are trying to change perceptions in a male dominated world. And since thatstupidpodcast.com doesn’t really have a blog I decided to put this up here for now. And if you’d like to give me your opinion leave a comment or call me @ 480-STUPID-9 and leave a voice mail for me to play on the podcast in a few weeks.
I’ve also called and left a message with an Associate Publicist at Random House in the hopes I’m able to at the very least get a comment from the publisher or at the best (in a dream world) have a sit down interview with the publisher and the book’s author and answer some real questions about why, while women are treated as second class would a female author of a children’s book in 2013 write and then publish a book that devalues women without hesitation. And with that I leave you with my letter.
Random House Children’s Publishing
1745 Broadway, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10019
The book entitled I Can Be a Computer Engineer (Barbie) By Susan Marenco; illustrated by Random House is something I am planning on speaking about in a publication soon and would like to know if Random House has any comments about the book or its author. I host a newly formed weekly podcast over at thatstupidpodcast.com and one of the focal points of my new podcast is women in geek culture and how they tend to be treated as second class citizens. I’ve interviewed and given a platform to one such “geek girl” so far and after a friend was given your book (which I later purchased a copy of to see for myself) I was appalled at the way this book is expressing how women act and are treated in the world of technology.
The highlights if you will that can be gleaned from this publication and therefore are passed down to the children reading or being read the pages therein are as follows:
“Computer engineer” Barbie is designing a video game (so far so good) but when her sister asks to play it she laughs and says she’s only drawing the picture, and that she needs help from 2 boys to make it a real game.
This means that girls can’t really code which enforces a horrible stereotype at a young age.
Additionally it shows that a girl needs a boy to do anything of value.
Her laptop then dies due to a virus and won’t boot up. She promptly kicks her sister out of the way, and sticks her USB drive into her sister’s laptop, which (shockingly to them) gets infected and crashes.
She has no respect for the boundary her sister has offered to her (needing to complete her own assignment) and does what she wants regardless of potential consequence.
She goes to class and asks the teacher for help, and the teacher tells her to take the hard drive out and plug it into the library computer to recover the data, which she tries but needs “Steven” to come to her rescue. “Steven” and the other dude then save all of her data, her sisters data, and write Barbie’s programming assignment for her.
Again enforcing her inability (and therefor the inability of women) to fix her own computer problems.
Barbie then takes the fixed computer home to her sister — taking full credit for fixing it, and hands in the programming assignment (that Steven wrote for her), ALSO taking full credit for it, and the teacher is so impressed she gives Barbie extra credit.
So she didn’t learn from her mistake. She enforced the stereotype that girls can get boys to do their work for them and simply take the credit (or extra credit as the case were in this story) and no one need worry about who actually did the work since it’s obvious a girl couldn’t have done it by herself anyway.
Did I get that about right? Is this what we want to teach young girls? When does the madness end? When do we stop enforcing invalid and horribly bias stereotypes that girls “just aren’t good enough” to compete with the boys when it comes to technology? I look forward to hearing from you. You may call or me personally to discuss this book and what it’s teaching the potential future for our engineering workforce.
Stephen Charles Rea | host, writer
that stupid podcast | political prowess
www.thatstupidpodcast.com | ( 480-STUPID-9)
[…] IT community cringe. Twitter is blowing up with campaigns to get the book removed from shelves or to get Random House to fix it. Well, I’m going to save Random House the effort by fixing refactoring it for […]
Mattel owns the Barbie brand. You should also address this concern to them, as well.
Don’t worry…they’re next. 🙂
*sigh* Mattel, go look at Veronica Mars. That’s how you can write a girl who’s still interesting and attractive but also actually the one who’s taking apart the computer rather than asking for help about it.
Yes! Off topic a bit but speaking of which I cannot wait till Pi Day!
Good god. I am horrified by that book.
Steven, any way you can port the ISBN # for this book? It should be listed in the front of the book.
It’s a a TWO in ONE Book Barbie Computer Engineer / Actress
Thank you so much for bringing this to light and asking they explain themselves.
Random House must be stuck in the 1950s. If they even try to write such a horrible puke about female mechanics, I’ll shove my Allen wrenches in their eyes.
Did you ever receive a response from them?
Nope….so I will be shooting my segment without them to air later this month.
I would be interested in hearing an update on this story.
I actually worked with a company a few years ago, that developed the websites for the Mattel brand which included Barbie and Barbie Collector, Hotwheels sites etc. I was one of three women who worked on it actually, I was front-end development and the others were back end development. I flew to LA and part of my job was to teach their front-end devs, who are male by the way, to maintain the site, develop new modules etc. While I was there I’d jokingly asked why there wasn’t a developer Barbie and perhaps there should be one, and about a year later she came out. I thought “finally!’ so I got one, she’s next to my Wonder Woman and Super Girl Barbies. I saw a blog post today criticizing this book and I was so angry, which led me here. You’d think that Susan Marenco would do her research, and most importantly, try to empower little girls. It’s hard enough as a female in this industry as it is, and it’s increasingly difficult to get little girls interested in the sciences and engineering. This is just ridiculous and pissed me off completely.
To be fair. Software development is usually a team effort with designers, developers, testers, project managers and many other key roles. It is realistic that one person would own the design while others do the actual development.
But I get the complaint and it is a bit weird that she turns to the “boys” for the “hard” parts.
When does your segment air? My daughter’s Girl Scout troop is studying stereotypes in media and would be very interested in hearing it. Thanks.
Whoops, I mean, When DID your podcast air? Can you post the link to it? Thanks.