Disrupting the pink aisle with GoldieBlox - Macleans.ca

Disrupting the pink aisle with GoldieBlox

Jesse Brown on a successful Kickstarter campaign for smart girls’ toys


GoldieBlox is a new line of toys, designed to trick little girls into building things for fun.

I don’t think that’s a snarky assessment: inventor Debbie Sterling, an engineering graduate of Stanford University, raised capital for GoldieBlox on Kickstarter, where she explained that it’s going to take more than pink lego to get girls interested in construction toys. In a pitch seemingly designed to inspire/enrage/perplex Women’s Studies majors, Sterling shared her gender revelation: little boys, she says, excel at spatial skills, and are therefore drawn to hands-on construction play. Girls, on the other hand, “have superior verbal skills. They love reading, stories, and characters.” So, to get girls excited about building, GoldieBlox hides its true engineering nature in a cotton-candy coloured storybook dressing (pink is notably underrepresented). “GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine,” the first in what Sterling hopes will be a series of toys, leads girls through an interactive picture narrative that just happens to result in the construction of a neat, whirling matrix of spindles.

As a former boy with negligible spatial skills and superior verbal abilities who still likes playing with his son’s Duplo, I can say that I find GoldieBlox unappealing. The joy of Lego and other building toys for me has always been the lack of rules, stories or instructions. You just dive in and start making stuff (unless you’re one of those anal kids who needs to make exactly what’s on the box). GoldieBlox seems needlessly complicated to me. But I’m a grown man, not a little girl, being steered constantly towards the pink princess aisle at Toys R Us. Sterling says she rigorously tested GoldieBlox with real kids, and is confident that the product she’s arrived at will succeed in delighting the imaginations of girls, and not just the politics of their parents.

GoldieBlox burst past its $150,000 Kickstarter goal last fall, earning over $285,000 from parents eager to provide their daughters with something different. Sterling just inked a distribution deal with Toys R Us, despite having symbolically placed the giant toy retailer in her crosshairs in this adorable rallying cry of a Youtube video:


Follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseBrown

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Disrupting the pink aisle with GoldieBlox

  1. Totally agree Jesse. I played with my brother’s lego, trains, castles, meccano etc and left the dolls in their cradles.

    With my own kids I supplied books, puzzles, microscopes. etc along with all the things my brother got…..to both of them.

    With my grandkids..well it’s robots and iPads, games, and all the other stuff…..both genders. Dolls are available, but don’t hold anybody’s interest….and nothing is pink. Ever.

    It’s up to the parents…..stop forcing this faux femininity and masculinity on your kids. it’s cultural bunk

    • I am sure you don’t mean to be quite as insulting as you sound but, despite my attempts to NOT force “faux femininity” (or, frankly, “masculinity”) on my daughter, she just loves dolls, dress-up, “fancy” shoes, Barbie (she got her first for $1 after begging at a neighbours garage sale) and generally all things girly. She loves dolls and her favourite colour is violet not because I forced it on her but, because it is and I am a-OK with that. I want her to grow up to be an adult that can make her own decisions on what she likes and what she doesn’t like. She also likes rescuing worms from puddles, I am also OK with that. In fact, as long as it isn’t harmful to herself or others, I am OK with it.

      In my experience, if you say no (e.g., “…nothing is pink. Ever.”) kids are just going to encounter it elsewhere and want it all the more.

      Perhaps rather than forcing activities/toys “aimed” at either gender, the easiest and less stressful message is to let the kids around you do what they find fun and suggest they try new things.

      • Well of course she does….you’ve taught her that…..so has society. It is, however, not ‘natural’….it’s cultural. Artificial. Fake.

        My kids and grandkids have access to everything, and they make their own choices. ‘Girly’ never comes into it.

        It’s time we stopped being tribal, and generalizing like this….people are individuals.

        • Why the personal judgement?

          Do you not see that by you deciding that her love of violet and dolls is because I (and, somehow society) have told her to love them is doing the exact thing you are rallying against? You are generalizing by calling her individual preferences artificial and fake.

          Violet (and pink) are colours. She loves them. Period. Not because someone has told her they are girly; because she finds them aesthetically pleasing. And, telling her it is not OK because somehow it is tribal is tantamount to telling her that her preferences are wrong. I will voice her right to love whatever colour she wants strongly.

          Do I think that she “learned” from me to cuddle, feed and dress gently the dolls she has asked for (and saved her own money to buy)? Yes. When I did/do it to her. Maybe someday she will have her own kids and the skill will come in handy. Learning how to care for young has got to be the most “natural” skill any mom passes down to their child – animal and human tribe alike.

          • Actually I’ve said the opposite….but you’re pushing an agenda here.

          • Actually, its been proven that gender biases are hard wired in to children’s little brains. give a kid a stick and a blanket, the boy will make a sword or gun and a super hero cape while the girl will invariably choose to make that stick a baby and swaddle it