Opinion

The big Barbie fail—and why we love the Lammily doll

"I Can Be a Computer Engineer" doesn't live up to its title as Barbie infuriatingly calls on the boys for coding help.

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Poor Barbie. Some days it must feel like the entire Internet is against her—that is, if she even understands how to use the Internet. But she can always all ask the smart boys to explain it to her, right?

I’m not being purposefully hard on Barbie for fun. It’s just that toy manufacturer Mattel sells us the idea that Barbie is an ambitious and empowered role model for young girls. However, in Mattel’s Barbie-themed book, I Can Be A Computer Engineer, they seems to suggest that Barbie (in her “adorkable” little glasses) thinks that being a computer engineer simply involves designing a website about puppy robots. Not to mention the now-controversial part where she asks Brian and Steve to figure out all that difficult coding stuff for her. But she does have a really cute pink laptop.

In the book, Barbie also gets a computer virus, passes it on to her little sister, Skipper, and the two end up in a pillow fight. Thank goodness that oh-so-smart Brian and Steve are around to save her from her own adorable ineptitude. (It all sounds like a #GamerGate fantasy.)

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Even Mattel couldn’t defend this clearly sexist book in a statement they released. After Gizmodo published their own hilarious take of the book, which was pulled from Amazon today, Mattel admitted that the book does not portray Barbie in the empowered way that they envisioned for the fashionable blonde.

Lori Pantel, vice president of marketing at Mattel said: “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 girls’ imaginations and portray an empowered Barbie character.”

The Internet, however, had a lot of fun with Barbie’s computer problems. The hashtag #FeministHackerBarbie quickly gained traction on Twitter and people continue to rewrite their own version of book online.

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While Barbie may have a permanent place in our hearts for our generation, I do think that it’s time for a new doll to take her place. Lammily is a good start. This 11-inch brunette doll is based on the average proportions of a 19-year-old girl. So, say goodbye to Barbie’s gravity-defying bust, and the arched feet that are perfect for high heels.

For a few extra dollars you can order a reusable sticker pack which includes freckles, beauty marks, scars, mosquito bites, cellulite and dirt stains. Nickolay Lamm, the creator of the Lammily doll, says that he wants girls to have toys “that reflect the loveable imperfections of their own bodies.”

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Lamm has already sold more than 19,000 of the dolls and has raised half a million dollars through a Kickstarter campaign. The dolls start shipping at the end of November, but the sticker packs will be mailed in January. They even released a video showing the amount of Photoshop that is required to turn a Lammily doll into a Barbie. It’s called “Time To Get Real.”


The Lammily slogan is “Average is Beautiful” which may not sound as aspirational as one connected to the dreamhouse-dwelling Barbie. But Lamm says reality really is beautiful: “I wanted to show that reality is cool,” he says. “And a lot of toys make kids go into fantasy, but why don’t they show real life is cool? It’s not perfect, but it’s really all we have. And that’s awesome.”

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A Lammily doll looks like the kind of girl I would want to hang out with—and she probably knows that being a computer engineer requires a lot more than just asking cute boys for help. Who would you rather your daughter look up to?

Emma Waverman is a writer, blogger and mom to three kids. She has many opinions, some of them are fit to print. Read more of her articles here and follow her on Twitter @emmawaverman.

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