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Rocket scientist Barbie

Topics/tags: Miscellaneous, Barbie, requests

The other day, after I posted my musing about robotics engineer Barbie, one of my valued colleagues posted a threat that went something like this, Unless you write a regular musing about Barbies, I’m going to take a job in a state with a baseball team with a racist mascot and a river that burned [1]. I’d prefer to save them from that fate, so I’m attempting at least one more musing in the series.

I don’t feel particularly qualified to comment carefully on the troublesome gender issues represented by an emaciated blonde who, these days, is also relatively immobile. And I’ve never had a child who played with Barbies, so I don’t know much about the target audience. But it strikes me that many children think of their Barbie dolls as something to help them imagine life as a teenager or young adult. So I appreciate that Mattel is increasingly looking for ways to inspire young women to think about new and different careers. Is it reasonable hope to believe that children will be inspired to follow the career paths but not the eating disorder? Let’s hope so.

Yeah, that’s enough of that. Let’s move on to one of the dolls. After my colleague’s request, I started looking around Amazon for other Barbies that would be worth writing about. After a bit of searching, I found one even better than computer engineer Barbie, GameDev Barbie, and robotics engineer Barbie. That’s right: It’s Rocket Scientist Barbie!

A Barbie doll that looks vaguely like Katherine Johnson, or at least the actress who portrayed Katherine Johnson in the movie 'Hidden Figures'.  She is placed in an office setting that includes adding machines on each desk and an old dial telephone.

More precisely, it’s the Barbie Inspiring Women Series Katherine Johnson Doll. But Rocket Scientist is the right term. I guess Computer Barbie would also be correct, but that gives the wrong impression.

I appreciate that the sample photos show Johnson in situ, as it were. The room full of desks, adding machines, and space posters suggest the work she did and the impact she had.

Here’s what the advertising text says.

While growing up in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, Katherine Johnson (her name was Coleman as a child) displayed an intense curiosity and an extraordinary knack with numbers. As a child prodigy, Katherine entered high school at 10 years old and graduated from college at the top of her class when she was just eighteen.

In 1953, she joined a pool of women hired by NASA to work as human computers. Katherine calculated the trajectory of NASA’s first American-manned flight into space.

Her flawless calculations helped the Apollo astronauts land and return safely from their voyage to the moon. Facial sculpt: MOTM Nichelle.

The Barbie Inspiring Women Katherine Johnson doll celebrates the achievements of a pioneer who broke through barriers of race and gender.

Like the trajectories she calculated, Katherine’s contributions inspire young people to excel in math and science, and to reach for the stars.

That’s much better. Maybe Katherine Johnson Barbie can serve as the mentor to the new scientist and engineer Barbies!

I wonder if the doll comes with one of the cool Barbie-scale adding machines they show in the background [3].

Postscript: What does it say that there were three Inspiring Women Series Barbie’s released at the same time, that the Amelia Earhart doll is now selling for nearly twice the original, that the Frida Kahlo doll is selling for about its original price, and that the Katherine Johnson doll is selling for about half its original price? [4].

[1] More precisely, they tweeted a suggestion that I muse regularly about Barbies and, sometime later, they posted a note about a cool job opportunity in Idaho, or something like that [2].

[2] Yes, I understand that no one other than me finds my jokes funny.

[3] Probably not. The features list ends with Includes doll, doll stand and Certificate of Authenticity. Plus, the photo of the doll in its box doesn’t show an adding machine. Too bad.

The Katherine Johnson barbie doll in a box.  At the lower-left-hand corner, it says 'Barbie Signature Katherine Johnson NASA Mathematician & Physicist'.

[4] I see from the comments on the Barbie site that this doll sold out the first time and they re-issued it. That’s a good sign!

Version 1.0 of 2018-12-10.