Barbie's Next Career: Blogger Barbie?

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The geek feminist establishment has spent so much time hating Barbie, that now it's a little hard to know what to think about the new Computer Engineer Barbie. I predict it's going to be yet another polarising factor, actually. There'll be those who think that Barbie is just mocking what we have tried so hard to achieve. And then there'll be those who'll think that this might actually help prove to little girls that a computing career is a possibility. The comments to this BBC article would indicate so, anyway.

When I was in high school in rural Queensland, there was the obligatory "what do you want to do when you leave school" conversations that had to be had in the run-up to matriculation. For whatever reason - and I don't really know whether to blame the school faculty, the rural sensibilities, or my own strange teenaged assumptions - I came to the conclusion that careers fell into one of two categories. You either did an apprenticeship, or you went to uni. The only apprenticeships I was aware of as being available for girls (all the boys were going to be fitters and turners, and I didn't even know what a fitter and turner was, let alone want to be one) were hairdressing apprenticeships. I didn't want to be a hairdresser. So I decided I'd better go to uni. How I chose my degree is another whole story, that might be best suited for another blog post, but suffice it to say that it took me six years and a lot of money (thanks HECS!) to finally graduate with something that I was proud to have, and that has eventually gotten me into a career I'm particularly fond of.

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.
-- Douglas Adams "The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul"

I spent most of high school flitting between the library for lunch-time sessions of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and the computer lab for marathon BASIC programming competitions with my friends. Christmas holidays were spent at my parent's old IBM compatible trying not be eaten by a grue. Yet the concept of studying computing was completely foreign to me. I loved making things do stuff, I loved destructing things to find out how they worked, I loved creating stories, and then having 2d10 decide the next plot twist for me. If something went wrong I wanted to know why it went wrong. Quite a lot of the time I broke things just so I could try to fix them (and that hasn't really changed much, I pulled apart my Roomba the other day). It wasn't until I got to uni and made friends in the computing lab there (you know who you are!) that I discovered that IT degrees even existed, I think.

I remember desperately wanting (and eventually getting) a Peaches 'n' Cream Barbie for my birthday one year when I was little. Perhaps if I'd been given computer engineer Barbie instead, my story would be different? I'm not sure, but it's my daughter's birthday soon, and I guess it can't hurt ...


News just in: you can pre-order Computer Engineer Barbie on the Mattel site, for delivery in December. Just in time for Christmas!


Update: ... but only if you live in the US. Bugger.


Anonymous said...
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Ken Holt said...

Hey Lana,

Great article - in fact Karsten Wade has just given it a good review over at fedora planet. It is a shame that IT careers are still very much seen as a male domain, much to the detriment of the industry. Whether barbie will help girls to be interested, i'm not yet convinced. In the meantime, I'm happy educating my two to be as computer savvy as possible. Both of them now happily use Windows or Linux without any hesitation. Hopefully it will sustain their interest enough that they can decide later if its a career they personally wish to pursue.

I'll ask them what they think of CE Barbie!

Unknown said...

Thanks Ken. Yes, I've just read Karsten's post, and my head has swelled a little now ;)

I very much doubt that Barbie will single-handedly smash the glass ceiling. But every little chink we can make in it, is a chink worth making.

Best of luck with your girls. I hope they have the courage to become what they want to be ... whatever that is!


Denise said...

This article should be sent to all the girls out there in year twelve, wish I had read it back then! Sadly schools in Brissie are not any better they STILL claim that hairdressing is the ONLY trade women can get into and engineering doesn't exist its just IT......groan....

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