Barbie has had a lot of careers over the years (seriously, there’s a whole Wikipedia page about it), but Mattel recently launched a special “Career Of The Year” Barbie designed to highlight a particularly “of the moment” career field. Last year, Barbie became a film director, staking her claim in a male-driven field. And this year she’s making similar in-roads into another boys’ club: Game development.
It’s something of a mea culpa for the last time Mattel tried to launch a techie Barbie back in 2010. Computer engineer Barbie’s pink laptop raised some eyebrows, but it was the accompanying book that really sparked outrage. At one point, Skipper asks to play with the game Barbie is creating and the book explains:
“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.”
In response, Kathleen Tuite launched the website Feminist Hacker Barbie to course correct the book’s troubling stereotypes:
This time around, though, Mattel has made sure to give game developer Barbie a lot of agency in her chosen career path. She comes with a headset, a tablet that shows the game she’s working on, and a laptop with real code on it. Plus, she’s got big glasses and cool red hair to sell the geek chic look, and she features the articulated feet the company has been pushing lately so she can wear white sneakers without having to stand on her toes. Casey Fiesler has an article over on Slate that examines the importance of the new doll.
The only potential misstep is that game developer Barbie seems to come in just a white version, at least so far. But last year Mattel released their film director doll in both a white Barbie version and a black Nikki version as well (in addition to a special Ava DuVernay doll), so it’s possible game developer Barbie will get more diverse at some point, too.
On the whole, the doll is part of a larger cultural push to get young girls interested in the tech world: For instance, supermodel Karlie Kloss recently launched a “Kode With Klossy” scholarship program to teach young girls how to code. Perhaps game developer Barbie—who is currently available online and will hit stores this summer—will even do the seemingly impossible, and inspire Silicon Valley to add some female developers to its main cast too.