KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) - A feminist firestorm over a Barbie career book has Barbie's maker, Mattel, apologizing.
The book is called Barbie: I Can Be A Computer Engineer. But the fifth sentence makes it clear that she really can't.
"'I'm only creating the design ideas,' Barbie says, laughing. 'I'll need Steven's and Brian's help to turn it into a real game,'" read Jennifer Wadella from the book.
The founder of Kansas City's Women in Technology was appalled.
“So we are saying, ‘Girls, you can only design things and then you need boys to help you code,'” she said.
Wadella is a computer engineer. She writes code for web pages. The Barbie book has been a huge talker in her circle of friends.
“A lot of the women I work with do mentoring for girls trying to encourage them into technology,” Wadella said. “And to see a book like this come out was just so awful it was laughable.”
The book has been skewered in Amazon.com reviews and spawned a slew of parodies. But the humor may be a more serious issue.
“If we want to solve the problem of women in computer science we can't understate the importance of male allies,” Wadella said. “However, the way the book portrays them, they are an absolute crutch and she is incapable of doing it without male assistance.”
Lori Pantel, VP of global brand marketing for Barbie, released this statement:
“The ‘Barbie: I Can Be A Computer Engineer' book was published in 2010. Since that time we have reworked our Barbie books. The portrayal of Barbie in this specific story doesn't reflect the Brand's vision for what Barbie stands for. 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.”
Interestingly, this is a two-in-one book. On the opposite side of Barbie: I Can Be A Computer Engineer is the book, Barbie: I Can Be An Actress.
Since reading the negative reviews on Amazon Wednesday afternoon, KCTV5 discovered Wednesday night that the listing for this book on Amazon has been taken down. KCTV5 emailed Amazon media relations to ask why and has not yet received a reply.