Should Parents Be Disappointed With Barbie?

These days, it seems like Barbie just can't catch a break. From showing up on the cover of a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue to the recent controversy with the illustrated book, Barbie I Can Be a Computer Engineer that was all over the Internet recently, as someone who grew up adoring the doll, I've been disappointed to say the least.

If you haven't heard, the book, which was originally published in 2010, was thrust into limelight when author Pamela Ribon wrote a post on her blog about finding it at a friend's house.

At first, the book's premise sounds great. Barbie has officially entered the 21st century and is creating a computer game for school. Cool!

Unfortunately, the book's plot quickly takes a turn for the worse. You can read more about all of it here. The line that got to me (and I think many other women too) most was when Barbie decides that rather than learning the information she needs on her own, this happens: " 'It will go faster if Brian and I help,' offers Steven.'Great!' says Barbie."

As a girl who both grew up playing with Barbies and studied informatics in college, and also once had an assignment to create a computer game just like Barbie did in the book, this was just embarrassing. Yes, learning to code is challenging. But that doesn't mean you can just drop your whole assignment on someone else!

Fortunately, Mattel has since pulled the book and made a public apology for the book's contents. The book's author has also spoken out. "Maybe I should have made one of those programmers a female – I wish I did," the book's author Susan Marenco told ABC News. "If I was on deadline, it's possible stuff slipped out or I quietly abided by Mattel without questioning it. Maybe I should have pushed back, and I usually I do, but I didn't this time."

Despite much of the controversy though, growing up I'm thankful for all of the creative play time I had with my Barbies and believe that time was truly well spent developing my own imagination. The thing that I loved most about my Barbie dolls was that I could shape their stories into whatever I wanted. I had no interest in following the story lines set by the paper boxes my dolls came wrapped in. I had dolls that were doctors, small business owners and high-powered executives (and actors and models and fashion designers).

As parents, it's always important to observe what kinds of messages our daughters receive -- from books, movies, TV, whatever. No reason to hate on Barbie all together! After all, even without Barbie, just about a decade after my obsession with the doll waned, I registered for my first computer coding class.

Get a behind-the-scenes look at a big day of testing for our best toys of 2014. Our little critics played with everything from robots to hair chalk to see which new products are the most fun and exciting this year.

Image: Little girl and her doll via Shutterstock

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