Miss Musings

A modern miss provides commentary on sociological and psychological issues concerning politics, the media, literature, and everyday observances.

Barbie can’t be a computer engineer… can she?

No longer is Barbie just a disproportionate plastic doll – she’s a computer engineer! Well, sort of….

The widely-discussed book “Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer” has made quite a wave in the feminist and tech-o-spheres, as its portrayal of the doll as the “creative soul yet incompetent programmer” has enough sociopolitical ammo in it to arouse viral upheaval.

Barbie is portrayed as a girl who accidentally downloads a virus onto her computer, but admits that she needs the help of her male friends to fix it. Bring in the feminist organizations – we need a clean up on the toy aisle, particularly Barbie’s plastic laptop kit. Later, she explains that she is designing a video game (rad!), but when her gal pals ask to play it, she admits that she will need her guy friend’s help to turn it into a real game (bad!). But Barb, we thought you were the computer engineer?

If I were a young reader, I would probably not understand what everyone is upset about. Barbie would not have seemed incompetent to me, because she frequently seeks out magic and other-worldly help in all of her plot lines – the girl doesn’t do much for herself, because if she could, what would be the point of having other characters and wild mystical possibilities involved? But as someone who is in tune to the qualms of the modern STEM woman, I understand the issue of Barbie not being able to code the video game herself – I mean, she is claiming to be an engineer, yet she puts the workload on someone else and does little tech work herself. While having imagination is critical to any project, it is not sufficient to supply ideas and call yourself the chief creator or “engineer” of a game. I worry more about the fraud and ethical implications Barbie is pushing in the story than the gender stereotypes that one could assume are propelled at our youth.

According to Time.com, Mattel apologized for how Barbie is portrayed in this story, which came out in 2010, yet only just now was brought to the attention of the internet. Time notes that Barbie has been “to space and business school,” and is a competent woman.

Surely if Barbie can do all that, she can be a computer engineer – I hope.

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Photo: theverge.com



Captain America wears a tutu

Recently I strutted over to the local Party City in high heels and wandered by the colorful costumes. At first glance, there was a clear distinction between the male’s costumes and female’s costumes. When the two suddenly merged, I stopped in my tracks.

There was the Captain America costume, but it looked a bit different.

Captain America had a tutu. It was pretty cute, too.

The Marvel section proudly displayed an adorable child’s costume: a dress with a red, white, and blue tulle skirt and a glittering Captain America shield on the chest, complete with a matching wand and crown, both equally Americana.


Cute, right?

Cute, right? Source: http://www.partycity.com/product/child+american+dream+tutu+dress.do?navSet=170692


If this had been any other costume, perhaps a princess or a cowgirl, I would not have taken any notice. But as a young woman who quietly bought a Captain America hoodie from the boy’s section in Target, something personal drew me to the innocent, yet still potentially politically powerful tutu. There are no Marvel hoodies in the women’s section at Target. But there is a superhero dress for little girls at Party City. Though it is only a costume, Captain America’s tutu may be a step in the right direction for girls who might just adore superhero movies, or any forms of entertainment that are pre-dominantly marketed towards males.


Photo courtesy of weheartit.com, clip from "Mean Girls"

Source: http://weheartit.com/entry/group/17308827


While I wanted to say “four for you, Party City” and chant about equal access to superhero merchandise, I stepped back to ponder on the result of blurring the social lines regarding what costume is appropriate for which gender. Boys may start requesting to wear tuxedos with Angelina Ballerina accents, and girls may conveniently wear a colored skirt over otherwise “masculine” Power Rangers jumpsuits. Soon enough, boys and girls may dress up exactly like the characters they intend to emulate, regardless of their genders. However, what may be a cause for social shock and outrage about “enforcing experimentation on today’s youth” is most likely just dressing up. In the words of my inner five-year-old, “girls like superhero movies too, deal with it.”

The hoopla caused over mixed gender costumes leads me to believe that society has one big problem: its members read into behaviors too much, therefore causing unnecessary inter-gender friction.

Society says: men wear pants. Women wear skirts. It has been this way for literally hundreds of years. Now, women are wearing the pants… although hesitantly, and when someone calls “feminist” from the rooftops the women jump at the chance to call “male privilege” and “oppression.” Suddenly, we see the hidden power of the pants: we get a bit courageous and perhaps even too big for our new, un-tailored britches.

The same women who cry “oppression,” due to the fact they are frowned on for expressing masculinity, may need to evaluate their opinions on men, one day, wearing skirts. Would it be so wrong for men to express femininity? It may not be wrong, but by today’s standards, it is alien. This is where the supposed “gender gap” in equality really lies: between our meticulous interpretation of trait expression, both for masculine and feminine qualities. If it is so empowering for a woman to wear pants, it would be no different for a man to wear a skirt – if you believe in the true definition of feminism, anyway.


The most accurate definition I could find of "feminism."

The most accurate definition I could find of “feminism.” Source: http://www.dearwinnie.com/2011/02/09/rebranding-feminism/


When men and women view each other as pants and skirts and judged solely on outward appearance, they give a lot of power to pieces of fabric. Suddenly, we are what we wear and have to conform to the expectations of our clothing. As we continue to read into what people wear, we prolong the nonsensical and nonexistent correlation between what kids wear and who they are. This creates problems that do not have to exist; dress-up time has turned into a social movement, whether you are on the “girls don’t wear pants” or “girls need to have equal access to pants” side of the picket line. It is all shouting in the end, and it certainly distracts from playtime.

I would want any girl to be able to wear the Captain America tutu, but not for feminist reasons or because she “should be able to” – only because she loves the Captain America movie just as much as I do.