The Controversy of the Pink-Clad Coder: The Challenge of Computer Programmer Barbie
Should people see you the way you see yourself? Should you change your appearance to ensure it?
Barbie, that iconic fashion doll, illustrates this dilemma with her newest career choice: Computer Engineer Barbie. The first doll to be assigned a career by popular vote, Mattel exclaims that "this digital diva engineers the perfect geek-chic look, with hot pink accessories and sleek gadgets to match." ChipChick explains that Mattel worked closely with the Society of Women Engineers and the National Academy of Engineering to ensure that computer engineer Barbie met the standards of her title.
However, not everyone is seeing Computer Engineer Barbie the way Mattel sees her. "Obviously inspired by Elle Woods, Computer Engineer Barbie proves that you can be smart and still wear pink," explains Amy Nicole Miller, Pop-Culture Editor of Velvet Park Magazine and the genius behind Lez Bobo the Clown. "However, it seems that in order to be taken seriously, glasses continue to be a required accessory. So you young girls with 20/20 vision, start practicing your pole dancing because only the nearsighted succeed." Many other critiques of Computer Engineer Barbie poke fun at her femininity - "the critics imply that real coders aren't feminine, and feminine coders aren't real," states Mashable's Rebecca Zook.
History provides a refutation to the idea that Computer Programmer Barbie needs to change her appearance to be authentic to her career. It's often overlooked that the first coder was, in fact, an extremely fashionable lady. Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron and Anne Isabella Milbanke, was the first person to conceptualize and articulate what computers were capable of doing, and the first to foresee that computers could create artificial intelligence, generate graphics, and create music. She was also a fixture of the English Aristocracy scene, was often seen dancing at parties, and was well-known in society as a charming and dainty lady. In a way, she'd be comparable to a modern socialite - however, history has shown that she was far more than just a pretty face in high society.
Do other people have to see you as you see yourself? We can imagine that Ada Lovelace probably had a rich, analytical inner life - without it, there's no way that she could have seen the practical uses of mathematics in computing. However, there's likely a fair number of her contemporaries who saw her as a party girl - a Barbie doll, if you will. Should Computer Engineer Barbie's appearance be changed to be less feminine in order to reinforce her career? Perhaps this a situation where it's actually better that, like Ada Lovelace, this Barbie should be a pink-clad coder.
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