#BBCtrending: Feminist Hacker Barbie

Barbie book pages showing altered text Image copyright Mattel
Image caption InfoSec Tyler Swift's Barbie book edit

Hundreds of people online have been rewriting a Barbie book using the #FeministHackerBarbie hashtag to correct what they call "sexist" attitudes.

It all started when blogger and screenwriter Pamela Ribon picked up the Barbie "I Can be a Computer Engineer" book at her friend's house. The book was published in 2010 but Ribon only recently discovered it. She later wrote on her blog that she was shocked to find that Barbie doesn't actually do any computer engineering herself in the book, but instead relies on two male friends to do it for her. "I'm only creating the design ideas," Barbie says in the book, as she explains to her sister that she's working on a computer game. "I'll need Steven and Brian's help to turn it into a real game!"

And by the end of the book, Steven and Brian fix Barbie's laptop for her.

"[We] were so livid after reading this book we spent the first fifteen minutes spitting out syllables and half-sounds," Ribon wrote on her blog. "I want this thing to start a meme of girls screaming, 'I don't need a Brian or a Steven!'"

Soon after she published her blog, #FeministBarbieHacker started trending on Twitter.

The trend was driven by real-life computer engineer Kathleen Tuite, who created a Feminist Hacker Barbie web app, inviting people to "Help make Computer Engineer Barbie better!" You can delete the book's original words and insert your own instead or, as Tuite's app puts it, "Fix a page in Barbie's book".

Image copyright Mattel
Image caption If Barbie really were a computer engineer...

And many people have been.

And it seems that the owner of the Barbie-brand Mattel may now take inspiration from the guerrilla sub-editors of social media. The book no longer appears for sale on Amazon and a statement on Mattel's Facebook page reads:

"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 girl's imaginations and portray an empowered Barbie character."

Reporting by Ruth Alexander

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