California became the first state in the U.S. to mandate gender-neutral display sections for products like toys in larger retail outlets.
Under the California bill, known as Assembly Bill 1084, signed by newly affirmed Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, stores with 500 or more employees to maintain a gender-free section or area with children’s items and toys, regardless of whether they have been traditionally marketed for either girls or boys. Retailers that violate the mandate, which goes into effect in 2024, face a $250 fine for a first violation and $500 for a subsequent offense.
This law does not include clothes and applies to toys and childcare items that include toothbrushes and hygiene products.
The stores would also be barred from using any signs indicating that an item is meant for either boys or girls.
Evan Low, a Democrat state assemblyman who authored the bill, said he was “incredibly grateful” Newsom signed the bill this year.
“We need to stop stigmatizing what’s acceptable for certain genders and just let kids be kids,” Low said. “My hope is this bill encourages more businesses across California and the U.S. to avoid reinforcing harmful and outdated stereotypes.”
Low claims that his inspiration from the bill came from Target’s decision in 2015 to get rid of “gendered” children’s sections. Instead, clothing and toys are organized by style instead of by sex.
“As much as I’d like to think of this as watershed legislation, this is something the industry is already doing. We’re just trying to play catch up,” Low said.
Low also has personal experience navigating the troubling way toy stores and clothing stores for kids are organized by gender. His nine-year-old daughter asked him why she had to go into the boy’s section of a store for a science-themed toy.
“That was the impetus of this, which is how do we make a safe space today for children in society,” he said.
The initiative was the third time that Democrats in the state Legislature have tried to pass this law, with similar bills failing in 2019 and 2020.
Republicans and some conservative groups fought against the legislation, arguing that the government should not tell parents how to shop for their children.
Gregg Bilson tweeted: “This is why California is laughed at. There are serious issues facing CA, and this isn’t one of them!”
Another Twitter wrote, “Because there aren’t more serious things lawmakers should be focusing on (homelessness, crime, stopping evictions, etc.).”