Math is hard.
November 17, 2014 1:55 PM   Subscribe

Barbie Fucks It Up Again “This is great!” I said. “Barbie wants to be a computer engineer! And fifty stickers!”

“Yeah, I was really excited at first, too,” Helen Jane said. “Because, like you, I believe in the good of people. But then, like I’m sure you’ve experienced a million times, I was reminded you should never believe in the good of people.”

“Oh, no. Should I read it?”

“You must. Immediately.”
posted by Shmuel510 (87 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
Goddammit, Mattel.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:00 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


The page 504s for me.
posted by rtha at 2:03 PM on November 17, 2014


Fl- flames. Flames..!... on the side of my face...!
posted by Zephyrial at 2:04 PM on November 17, 2014 [21 favorites]


Wow. Well, I guess this has reinvigorated me about my computer science book for middle-grade girls writing project that I recently semi-abandoned soooo
posted by town of cats at 2:07 PM on November 17, 2014 [8 favorites]




Yeah, not loading for me either. Is there a mirror anywhere?
posted by Itaxpica at 2:08 PM on November 17, 2014


google cache + amazon reviews
posted by Lanark at 2:08 PM on November 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


You would really think Mattel would have a giant "don't be morons" sign next to the words"Math class is tough!"

The frustrating thing is not only that Computer Engineer Barbie needs the boys to accomplish everything (and designing a game is real work even if you don't program it too), but also that the book teaches that computers are evil scary machines prone to blow up and develop viruses at any moment. Barbie was designing away, and all of a sudden she lost her own work and all of her sisters' files! Talk about a way to discourage kids, of any gender, from wanting anything to do with computers.
posted by zachlipton at 2:14 PM on November 17, 2014 [19 favorites]


Brogrammer Ken.
posted by acb at 2:17 PM on November 17, 2014 [13 favorites]


Well, they didn't fuck it up on the first page. Sigh.

I'd be curious to see how Barbie books tend to handle other professions -- not curious enough to go read them myself, of course -- I feel like the infantilization would be a little less ragemaking if other professions (even female-dominated ones) were dumbed down the same way.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:19 PM on November 17, 2014


Barbie fucks it up again / Doo-dah, doo-dah
Leave the real work to Ken / oh the doo-dah day
posted by Rat Spatula at 2:21 PM on November 17, 2014 [15 favorites]


"This file has a typo!", Barbie exclaimed. "It's titled REAMDE, Skipper! Isn't that silly?"

Skipper knew that soon, the Russians would come. They would not be silly.
posted by boo_radley at 2:23 PM on November 17, 2014 [65 favorites]


It's better than the computer programming Barbie from the late 80s, where she was using one of these.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 2:30 PM on November 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


Jesus Fucking Christ.
posted by brundlefly at 2:38 PM on November 17, 2014


In all fairness the Russians were extremely sexist, as well. "Apologize to the lady" indeed. Poor Skipper.
posted by tigrrrlily at 2:41 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


No, Pierce Fucking Patchett. (seems closer to the source)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:41 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


You can play the game Barbie designed on barbie.com! Somehow, they actually called it "Data Diva." (I know this thanks to DeviousVacuum's excellent, depressing Let's Play Games for Girls, which... If this blog post made you angry, then whoof.)
posted by skymt at 2:41 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I'm doing the design. The coding's all in Actionscript, so the boys can handle it — it's not like it's C++."
posted by klangklangston at 2:44 PM on November 17, 2014 [23 favorites]


A lot of these things aren't upsetting alone, but the pile up gets horrible.

Lots of people prototype and design software without being able to program. Yes, sometimes it does take two people to reboot a computer if it's effed up. Sometimes it is just helpful to get someone a glass of juice. Backups are great and it's a bit weird to be critical of what kind of USB drive she has.

Then is goes to crap.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:45 PM on November 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Software engineer Barbie is hard at work at 9pm on Friday night. Her team has a deadline to produce a demo of their iOS casual social game on Monday. She is coding frantically, trying to fix bugs that have arisen from a last-minute change to the "cute puppy" feature. The product managers, designers, and artists have all gone home to their families. Her friends are calling her to come out and party, but she believes in her company's vision to bring gaming to the mainstream. Eventually, at 1am, she fixes the last bug, calls and Uber, and goes home.

On Monday, the demo is reviewed by the publisher. She asks the General Manager how it was received. He replies that they are going to pivot to a Clash of Clans clone, so she needs to remove the puppy, and pretty much all the work she did in the past month, and to get ready for some serious crunch time because they are way behind schedule.
posted by rustcrumb at 2:45 PM on November 17, 2014 [77 favorites]


You can play the game Barbie designed on barbie.com! Somehow, they actually called it "Data Diva."

Oh god, why.

"Engineers use a special language called 'code' to make programs work. Match blocks of code to make your puppy do tricks!"

And then it's essentially like any other "match three" game. I tried to see if the puppy does specific tricks for separate color combinations (which could be pseudo coding?), but it doesn't look like it.

There's ample precedent for teaching kids to code with games, but somehow, that concept didn't make it through. It's just "Code exists! Play with the blocks!"
posted by damayanti at 2:53 PM on November 17, 2014 [4 favorites]



When Barbie puts her flash drive into Skipper’s laptop, the screen starts blinking.
"Oh, no!” says Barbie. “The virus must be on the flash drive!"
"I forgot to back up my homework assignment!” cries Skipper. “And all my music files are lost, too!"
"I’m so sorry, Skipper," says Barbie. "I have to run off to school now. But I promise to find a way to fix your laptop."
"You better!" Skipper replies as she playfully hits Barbie with a pillow.


If I may amend that last line to be more realistic:

IT IS THEN THAT SKIPPER PRONOUNCED THE CHANT OF N'GRAUTH, AN UNHOLY INVOCATION TO NYARLATHOTEP IN ITS FORM OF THE DWELLER IN DARKNESS, AND OFFERED UNTO IT BARBIE'S SOUL....
posted by JHarris at 3:11 PM on November 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Was this all made by like 70 year olds or what?

I mean, we're living in a world where two year olds know how to play with iPad apps. What resemblance does this story have to real computers like at all?
posted by Sara C. at 3:16 PM on November 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


damayanti: "There's ample precedent for teaching kids to code with games, but somehow, that concept didn't make it through. It's just "Code exists! Play with the blocks!""

Even something like RoboRally or Chu Chu Rocket would at least get kids considering commands and the order of execution. But I suspect the Barbie game production pipeline does not devote a lot of energy to considering the procedural rhetoric of the game mechanics.
posted by RobotHero at 3:36 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


even by users with long fingernails

I think that this can be a legitimate product design feature and that a product that's unusable by someone with big fake nails (or real ones) suffers from a failure due to lazy design or unconscious bias.

That said, making it the core design feature is probably even worse.
posted by GuyZero at 3:36 PM on November 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


I think this might have been more succinct in the original Malibu Stacy. "Math is hard! Let's make cookies for the boys!"
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 3:37 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is so unbelievably awful that is passes awful and goes into new territory of OMG someone got paid for that. Mind you, they probably didn't get paid much, so there's that.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 3:39 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh god, I'm totally derailing here but what's wrong with a latch that is easy to work with long fingernails?

I use a way-overpriced and way-overspecced Macbook not because of the performance or the software (last I tried I couldn't get Linux booting reliably on EFI) but because of the build quality and the rounded edges and the nice screen and the fact that I can use it and type on it comfortably, even with a manicure that costs enough to maintain that you know what let's just not think about that.

On preview, THANK YOU GuyZero, at least now I feel a bit less weird.
posted by tigrrrlily at 3:41 PM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


In the sequel, Barbie goes out for root beer floats with Game Journalist Ken, sparking a massive online harassment campaign ostensibly motivated by ethical concerns even though he never actually reviews Data Diva.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:47 PM on November 17, 2014 [41 favorites]


Is it bad if I mention I am male and find math hard?
posted by Samizdata at 3:47 PM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Oh god, I'm totally derailing here but what's wrong with a latch that is easy to work with long fingernails?

I just bought an otter case for my iPhone 6 and between the 1/4" thick silicone bumper and the tiny, tiny mute button on the iPhone, it seems like it was designed to only accommodate people with long fingernails.
posted by mr vino at 3:47 PM on November 17, 2014


I have a rule for my five-year-old daughter that she can check out any book at the library, but I won't read Barbie to her. I'll read Care Bears and My Little Pony until the sun goes down, but no friggin Barbie.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 4:46 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Samizdata: "Is it bad if I mention I am male and find math hard?"

No. Math is really fucking hard.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:47 PM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


“Your robot puppy is so sweet,” says Skipper. “Can I play your game?”

“I’m only creating the design ideas,” Barbie says, laughing.
“I’ll need Steven and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game!”

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
posted by pickles_have_souls at 4:57 PM on November 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Maybe Barbie glossed over that she was paying them $10K flat for development services and pocketing all the upside when the game goes viral from the in-app purchase revenue.

I mean, it could be.
posted by GuyZero at 5:05 PM on November 17, 2014 [15 favorites]


There's a comment on that article by GrumpyProfessor that goes on a bit about the clothes that Barbie is wearing in the book. Of course that person is allowed an opinion but for someone who teaches a "Gender and Computing class", I kind of feel like s/he has the wrong end of the stick.

GrumpyProfessor
November 17, 2014

I taught a Gender and Computing class for a couple of years and had thus two Computer Engineer Barbies purchased with university money so we could look at the gender bias in the dolls. Here we go:

* Yes, pink laptops (Macs, with an App you can get for your iPhone)
* pink phones
* Barbie wears glasses (pink)
* Her blonde hair is in a ponytail (okay, sort of)
* She has a bluetooth receiver in her ear (pink). This is kind of a guy thing, but whatever.
* She is not wearing a T-Shirt with ALT+F4 or something on it, but a close-fitting blousey thing with computer keys printed on it. Apparently the designer didn’t get the memo on the joke T-Shirts.
* [I hope you are sitting down] Barbie is wearing tight *leggings*. WTF? Where do I put my keys and my Swiss army knife and my dongle and my USB sticks if I don’t have pockets??? The “briefcase” that comes with Barbie (silver) only fits the pink Mac.
* The killer: Since Barbies come in high-heeled only, and someone noticed that Computer Engineers don’t usually walk around in 5 inch spike heels, she has flat loafers with insets to fill up the high heel, meaning that she can’t stand straight.

I have the two on my shelf and explain it to people who ask. And I join the choir: #fail, Mattel, #fail.


Who gives a crap what she's wearing? I feel like Grumpy Professor is really just setting up more rules that women in STEM fields have to follow to be "real" programmers/scientists/etc. It just seems counterproductive and tells girls/young women that you can be female but don't be too girly. How is that a better message to send to girls/young women?

I'm the least pink-wearing person I know but Grumpy Professor just makes me want to buy a pink t-shirt and leggings to wear during my Statistics final.
posted by Beti at 5:09 PM on November 17, 2014 [15 favorites]


Huh. There's actually a woman who is a developer in my department who wears leggings like EVERY DAY. What an odd thing to complain about. That possibly the most normative analysis of gender expression I've ever read.
posted by GuyZero at 5:14 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


IDK the blouse with keyboard keys on it sounds super dumb, and again, like the person who came up with it has never actually seen a computer or met anyone who works with computers.
posted by Sara C. at 5:15 PM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


IDK the blouse with keyboard keys on it sounds super dumb, and again, like the person who came up with it has never actually seen a computer or met anyone who works with computers.

At the same time I'm pretty sure my job responsibilities don't include sartorial policing of my co-workers and if a woman showed up around here wearing an actual human-sized version of that blouse, well, no one is going to complain.

Honestly, I might have to check around to ensure it's never actually happened. Because developers of all genders are known to be... sartorially challenged. And yet creative.
posted by GuyZero at 5:19 PM on November 17, 2014


I was at this conference once of female grad (and some undergrad) students in a certain scientific field, and one problem some of these brilliant young women had was whether to publicly admit to actually liking some girly things. I think Computer Engineer Barbie should be allowed to wear whatever the hell she wants (within reason, yada yada, etc)
posted by tigrrrlily at 5:28 PM on November 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm going to pop in and say that a blouse with computer keys and circuit boardy patterns sounds pretty cool. Although Barbie's color scheme isn't necessarily to my tastes, I give a big thumbs up to women's clothing that uses atypical visual elements.

Also, I think the "refactoring" is very well done and super considerate. Mattel should throw some money at the author and just use it for future editions.
posted by redsparkler at 5:31 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I would just like to exclaim over seeing a Pamela Ribon piece on Metafilter, it's been a long time since I've seen her linked! I used to have such an internet crush.
posted by emjaybee at 5:35 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well, on the other hand Computer Engineer Barbie is a product developed by people making choices about what Computer Engineer Barbie "should" wear.

There are a few problems with this, of course, in a lot of different directions:

- Software engineers don't have a particular uniform they're required to wear, like scrubs or firefighting equipment or clown noses or the like.

- If you costume Software Engineer Barbie in the "stereotypical silicon valley nerd" uniform of cargo shorts and a t-shirt with a pun on it, you run the risk of implying that you can't be girly and also a software engineer.

- If you costume Software Engineer Barbie in some kind of sleek pink sexified version of what a software developer might wear, ewwwwwww.

- You have to pick one color of plastic for all of Barbie's accessories, and it it makes sense to go with pink because it's the trademark Barbie color, and also little girls have been spoonfed a diet of pink already anyhow.

But really the bottom line for me is that the people who designed this toy didn't even try to figure out the right way to represent a software engineer's aesthetic. They were just like "o idk put a picture of the thing on the shirt prolly i mean what even is a computer rite"

Personally I think a Barbie with a nerdy t-shirt, yoga pants/leggings, and tiny vibram 5-finger shoes would be adorable.
posted by Sara C. at 5:37 PM on November 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


Personally I think a Barbie with a nerdy t-shirt, yoga pants/leggings, and tiny vibram 5-finger shoes would be adorable.

Have you seen Barbie's feet? Those toes don't separate for anything.
posted by xingcat at 5:40 PM on November 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


I got at grant at my library to develop a STEM program for preschoolers. I decided to set it in a fairy tale kingdom with a take charge princess who likes to get all sciencey, specifically because of things like this book.
posted by Biblio at 5:42 PM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


You could make a sort of garden variety flat with articulated vibram toes that would be pretty cute.

When I was little I had some kind of ballerina barbie where they managed to do something on the order of ballet shoes and it was fine considering the technical limitations of the form.
posted by Sara C. at 5:42 PM on November 17, 2014


When you hold the book in your hands to read a story, the opposite book is upside down, facing out. So the final insult to this entire literary disaster is that when you read “Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer,” it appears that you are so fucking dumb, you’re reading “Barbie: I Can Be an Actress” upside down.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 6:08 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Argh, yeah, Beti! I had the same reaction to that comment by "GrumpyProfessor" -- it just seemed to completely miss the purpose children have for playing with Barbie dolls.

It's not the goal of any of these "professionalized" toys for little kids to mimic exactly what the professions dress like. (There's a Scientist Barbie, and I'm sure we could get scientist MeFites to snark about her lack of: mysterious clothing stains, piles of unfinished reports, giant keychain for the labs, etc.) It's about fantasizing a future career as an adult while still being able to indulge in all the traditional Barbie girly-girl fashion magic wish-fulfillment.

When your nine-year-old daughter asks you if she can be President someday and still live on a farm with ponies, you don't talk to her about having to get up early to shovel shit out of stalls -- you say "yes."
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 6:20 PM on November 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


Would it be weird to give Barbie a Barbie T-shirt?
posted by RobotHero at 6:27 PM on November 17, 2014


Meanwhile, the Bratz computer engineer dolls are busy disrupting antiquated market sectors while storing currencies as floats.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:40 PM on November 17, 2014 [13 favorites]


In the sequel, Barbie goes out for root beer floats with Game Journalist Ken, sparking a massive online harassment campaign ostensibly motivated by ethical concerns even though he never actually reviews Data Diva.

#ActuallyitsaboutethicsinSteveandBrian
posted by klangklangston at 6:45 PM on November 17, 2014 [6 favorites]




Sara C.: "Personally I think a Barbie with a nerdy t-shirt, yoga pants/leggings, and tiny vibram 5-finger shoes would be adorable."

A couple steps further, but I give you Feral Cheryl. She also has pubic hair.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:18 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Those Feral Cheryl people are going to owe the estate of Ari Up some serious money.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:27 PM on November 17, 2014


Just get your kid a Mac doll instead.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:31 PM on November 17, 2014


Yeah don't gimme that "she should be dressed like an engineer" bullshit cuz that implies there's a way real engineers dress. That's exactly the kind of looks like Zuckerberg bullshit that's made the industry hostile to Barbie and everyone else who doesn't fit the stereotype.
posted by chrchr at 7:40 PM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


And @Spacekatgal has just compiled her tweets into a story on Storify.
posted by snap, crackle and pop at 9:01 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


The twist is that Steve and Brian are actually the anglicized names of Amendra and Gaurav, and they will be let go the following week when BarbieCorp restructures its offshore teams in Gurgaon, a fact Barbie has yet to share with them.
posted by um at 9:24 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, the Bratz computer engineer dolls are busy disrupting antiquated market sectors while storing currencies as floats.

that's sound engineering practice, according to Magento ("an eBay Inc Company")
posted by russm at 12:00 AM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


So basically, Barbie is some sort of Systems Analyst and Designer, yet she hasn't done any programming, or know about anti-virus software? I know these things aren't supposed to be totally realistic, but this is plain ridiculous. Surely this has been written by someone who has never tried to program a computer in their life.

As for the rest of it, its Mattel's Barbie, did you seriously expect better?

Maybe we could start our own series about a girl (Barbie style - same girl each time) doing stuff like programming and STEM stuff, and actually doing it without needing boys. We could call her, oh I dunno, Sandy, maybe.
posted by marienbad at 12:29 AM on November 18, 2014


I was having fun last night recasting this with Ken learning how to be a children's librarian but really he was only going to cut out the feltboard pieces, not present the storytime, silly, that's something only a ukelele-strumming woman can do. Oh, and he spilt tacky glue all over the grant application and Audrey from tech services had to help him out of a jam.
posted by Biblio at 3:36 AM on November 18, 2014 [8 favorites]


I can almost see how something like this comes to exist. Like they have some checklist of things little kids should learn about computers, interspersed with things about software engineers and stuff the Barbie brand consultant added, and it looks something like:
  • Always back up your homework!
  • Be careful not to spread viruses to your computer!
  • Software engineers have to work in teams!
  • Make sure to mention Barbie has a heart-shaped flash drive on a necklace!
And then the writer is very pleased to have fit all these requirements in but forgets to not make Barbie look incompetent at her job.
posted by RobotHero at 8:00 AM on November 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also I've watched a bunch of DeviousVacuum's Let's Plays, and the Barbie site comes across as competent and well thought out in comparison to some of the other dreck out there.

I'm not sure the other career-based games are any more accurate at representing the job, but it does seem they do try to make the mechanics fit the theme rather than just re-skinning something like I first expected.
posted by RobotHero at 8:10 AM on November 18, 2014


When your nine-year-old daughter asks you if she can be President someday and still live on a farm with ponies, you don't talk to her about having to get up early to shovel shit out of stalls -- you say "yes."

Nope. You read up on the history of the White House with her and find out when the stables were removed. Probably throw in a children's biography of Dolley Madison for good measure.
posted by asperity at 8:56 AM on November 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


That whole virus / flash drive thing immediately made me think of this Mitchell and Webb sketch.

"Stand back! I'm going to use the electric shock that's a sort of medicine if you're very ill, but can make you a kind of ill if you're fine. Clear!

Oh no. He was fine. Now he's poorly from too much electric."
posted by Errant at 11:33 AM on November 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


Special pricing this Black Friday: Barbie branded USB necklace drive. I'll make millions. Oh and it only comes in pink and you have to get two boys help to open the packaging and format it from JFS into something usable.
posted by msbutah at 1:11 PM on November 18, 2014


When your nine-year-old daughter asks you if she can be President someday and still live on a farm with ponies, you don't talk to her about having to get up early to shovel shit out of stalls -- you say "yes."

G.W. Bush spent a whole lot of time on his ranch as president, didn't he?

Now personally I wanted to be both a ballerina and homicide detective. Came of taking dance lessons and reading Nancy Drew.
posted by OnceUponATime at 2:23 PM on November 18, 2014


Geek girls reject sexist Barbie book's message by remixing it
"Really good games are made by a team of people. I'm doing some of the coding now, but Stephen and Brian are helping, too. There are lots of pieces to making a game, like art and music and storyline. Brian drew that puppy. You're a good artist, Skipper. Maybe you could be a graphic designer when you grow up."

Skipper grins. "I love art, but I really love science, too. Physics is my favorite class. I think I want to be a physicist."
(Article includes a link to a Feminist Hacker Barbie remix generator.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 8:55 AM on November 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


The "fixed" version of this (PDF) by Casey Fiesler and Miranda Parker is fantastic.
posted by exogenous at 11:54 AM on November 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


I liked it up until the last page where Barbie decided to learn Java. I guess even Barbie needs a day job.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:03 PM on November 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Barbie issues an apology. (Same statement as in the article in Bwithh's link just above, but on their Facebook page.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 6:03 PM on November 19, 2014


An official apology, for what it's worth (on Facebook, alas).

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 girl's imaginations and portray an empowered Barbie character.

posted by RedOrGreen at 6:05 PM on November 19, 2014


(Darn it, jinx.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 6:06 PM on November 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


[buys RedOrGreen a Coke]
posted by Shmuel510 at 6:16 PM on November 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Bwithh: "Author Marenco said she has received nearly 200 critical emails about the book, “many I’m scared to open.”"

Okay, maybe I just don't like confrontation (Versus whether I can claim a moral or ethical high road.) but I will gladly criticize something but I am not quick to directly contact the person who created it to let them know my disapproval.

I said something similar in another thread, even if individually everyone contacting her stays polite and reasonable, (and given the internet, that is a big "if") because this story has been going viral, in aggregate it's going to feel to her like she's the sudden target of an angry mob.
posted by RobotHero at 10:27 PM on November 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is that such a bad thing, though? I mean I get that books like this are probably written by committee in a certain sense, and definitely churned out by freelancers who are working on umpteen other projects. It's probably not entirely her fault, and to the extent that it is her fault, it's just a symptom of a broken system that has little to do with this particular writer.

But you know what? If this author had tried harder to actually write something good, people wouldn't be sending her angry emails, and she wouldn't be the butt of a zillion viral internet jokes. It would have taken very little effort to write a book where Barbie doesn't come off like an ignorant ditz, and which doesn't send the message that only boys truly understand how to work a computer.

(Also I was recently at a Comic-Con panel where artist Amanda Conner talked about working for Barbie once upon a time and quitting because she kept being asked to give Barbie less facial expression. So I totally get how frustrating it must be to write for that particular brand.)
posted by Sara C. at 10:55 PM on November 19, 2014


Do you really want to go with the, "Sure, she's being harassed, but she had it coming" defense?
posted by misha at 11:52 PM on November 19, 2014


A. Yes, insofar as she had it coming. If you write a shit book that tells little girls they can't be software engineers, you deserve to be called out as the shitty author of said shitty book. (I wouldn't condone outright abuse, though.)

B. Is she being harassed? She got angry emails. Emails she's free to delete without opening if she so chooses. It's not like she's getting death threats or doxxing or naked pictures of her are being spread around.
posted by Sara C. at 12:00 AM on November 20, 2014


She may not be being harassed, you're right, but the comment about being afraid to open some of her emails sounds like she feels she is being harassed to me.
posted by misha at 12:36 AM on November 20, 2014


If you don't want to read emails about how you wrote a sexist book, don't write a book for Barbie. Or, if you must write a book for Barbie, try to make it as un-sexist as possible. And if Barbie pushes back and turns the SCUM Manifesto manuscript you turned in into LETS MAKE COOKIES FOR THE BOYS, you remind yourself that being a freelance writer sucks and don't take the emails personally.
posted by Sara C. at 1:04 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'll put it another way.

I work on a major network TV drama that is popular in the geeky/"fan" community. After each episode airs, I like to go online and see what people are saying about this week's installment. This week, I went over to tumblr and twitter and saw that there were two plot points in the episode that feminists are not happy with. This pissed me off a little, since in general our show is about as feminist as it gets on network TV. And in a lot of ways, it's not as feminist as I think the writers/directors/cast/etc. want it to be, simply because of the huge apparatus of what a network TV series is. But in general we do pretty well, and I think getting gender and racial issues right is important to our creatives and crew.

Did I decide I was being harassed, after seeing all those angry posts (some of which included actionable threats a la "if [character] doesn't [plot point], I'm going to burn [showrunner's] house down!")? No. I thought to myself, welp, this is how the sausage is made. You can't please everyone, and in general we try our best and do a lot better than a lot of other media.
posted by Sara C. at 1:11 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yes, but you chose to go to Twitter and Tumblr and read those posts. No one was emailing you personally, which I do think makes it hit a little closer to home.

Please note that I am not saying no one should criticize this woman's work. Write critical articles, rake the Barbie material she wrote over the coals for the sexism it contains, that's fine and, as you say, comes with the job.

Critical reviews do not require anyone to hunt her down and start flooding her personal inbox, though. I am saying that I have a problem with the idea that she deserves that particular level of feedback, especially since she has indicated that she feels uncomfortable opening some of the messages, which suggests personal attacks (rather than critiques of her work) have been lobbied at her before.
posted by misha at 12:14 AM on November 21, 2014


Do you seriously think that if I can find that stuff in a quick skim of twitter, my bosses' inboxes aren't full of it?

If you don't want people to tell you your work is crap, don't write. Or write something you stand by and don't care if people dislike it.
posted by Sara C. at 1:32 AM on November 21, 2014


I reject the notion that there's nothing wrong with the Internet Hate Machine deluging people with invective, as long as they asked for it by becoming writers.

Regardless, here's some more about the writer and her view of the process.
posted by Shmuel510 at 11:24 AM on November 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Sara_C , I think we are talking past each other at this point, so we should probably just agree to disagree.
posted by misha at 11:55 AM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


This story will be updated and re-released as MBA Barbie. It begins as Barbie seeks technical cofounders to implement innovative market conquering mobile game concept. The game is a huge success. Then Barbie ruthlessly cuts her partners out of the business as she plans the IPO. In the book's closing chapter she gives a Ted Talk about how great she is, everyone heralds her as the biggest tech visionary since Steve Jobs.
posted by humanfont at 9:59 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]




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