Computer PhD Candidate Remixes Offensive Barbie Book and Makes the Iconic Doll a Computer Engineer

Barbie Remix

One of my favorite things about remix: If you don’t like the narrative, change it!

When Casey Fiesler, a PhD candidate in Human-Centered Computing at Georgia Tech, came across the issues with the book Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer (which has since been withdrawn for sale by Mattel), she set about creating a wonderfully remixed book that can be downloaded for free, reimagining the iconic doll Barbie as a computer engineer despite her impossible figure and overdone blue eyeshadow.

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

  • Design a videogame.
  • Get a boy to code it for you.
  • Accidentally infect your computer with a virus.
  • Get a boy to fix it for you.
  • Take all the credit for these things yourself

And the problem isn’t even that Barbie isn’t a “real” computer scientist because she isn’t coding. (I am one of those mostly-non-coding computer scientists myself, though now I’m tempted to make a game about robot puppies shooting lasers anyway.) The problem is the assumption that she is a designer, not a coder, and the coders are boys. (There are also problems with nonsense explanations for computer viruses, taking credit for other people’s work, and inexplicable pillow fights.) I happen to study remix, so one of my first thoughts upon seeing this was: someone is obviously going to remix this. I figured, why wait?

In another protest against the original book, programmer Kathleen Tuite has created “Feminist Hacker Barbie”, an interactive page where users can submit their own remixed pages to “help Barbie be the competent, independent, bad-ass engineer that she wants to be.”

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images by Casey Fiesler

via The Mary Sue

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.