Barbie dolls are designed for girls. And because engineering is a field that still suffers from the lack of women, the makers of these dolls thought it would be wise to incorporate what engineers do with their figures as an invitation to the field.
Nice idea, wrong execution. This is how the public responded.
Toy company Thames and Kosmos has gotten so much flak after creating a doll that intends to build washing machines and racks where Barbie can keep her shoes and jewelry. They developed a kit, mostly pink, intended for girls to play with, complete with plastic sticks in order to make household appliances.
While the effort to bridge girls and engineering is there, many criticized that the “Engineering Barbie” forces a stereotype – that female engineers can only do domestic chores and work related to fashion. Other than that, the products included in the Barbie STEM kit are limited to dresses, a moving clothes rack and a washing machine.
One of those critics is Dame Athene Donald, professor of experimental physics at Cambridge University and president of the British Science Association, who felt that the engineering doll was “damaging” to children as it cemented an outdated domestic image of females which no longer applied.
“This is a schizophrenic solution to getting girls more interested in engineering. In a way they are addressing the problem, but they are also sending out a message to boys that they don’t need to get involved with washing,” she tells the Daily Telegraph.
Donald further says that children should not be restricted as to what they can build, and we should just let them play.
This isn’t the first time that Barbie was involved in an engineering controversy.
In 2010, there was a book released called “I Can Be a Computer Engineer” featuring Barbie which was also condemned. The reason? It suggested that Barbie couldn’t achieve technological success without the help of her male friends. For this, Barbie manufacturer Mattel retracted the book online and said sorry for the mistake.
For everyone who doesn’t mind this issue about Barbie and still interested to buy the doll, one can get it in retail for $37. Note that this Barbie is designed for girls aged 4 to 8.