On Saturday, California became the first state in the U.S. to require large retail stores to provide gender-neutral toy sections when Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1084. California Assemblyman Evan Low was inspired to write the bill after the 10-year-old daughter of a staff member asked why some toys were off-limits to her as a girl.
“This bill would require a retail department store that is physically located in California that has a total of 500 or more employees across all California retail department store locations that sells childcare items or toys to maintain a gender-neutral section or area,” the bill states, “to be labeled at the discretion of the retailer, in which a reasonable selection of the items and toys for children that it sells shall be displayed, regardless of whether they have been traditionally marketed for either girls or for boys.”
Low provided a statement to the assembly’s judiciary committee, asserting that toys and other products have traditionally been categorized by gender.
“In retail this has led to the proliferation of [science, technology, engineering and mathematics]-geared toys in a ‘boys’ section and toys that direct girls to pursuits such as caring for a baby, fashion, and domestic life,” stated Low. “The segregation of toys by a social construct of what is appropriate for which gender is the antithesis of modern thinking.”
The law does not prevent department stores from maintaining traditional boys’ and girls’ sections. It also does not apply to clothing. Instead, large stores must also have a gender-neutral selection of toys and childcare items, including teething and hygiene products. Small businesses are exempt.
“We need to stop stigmatizing what’s acceptable for certain genders and just let kids be kids,” Low told the AP. “My hope is this bill encourages more businesses across California and the U.S. to avoid reinforcing harmful and outdated stereotypes.”
This is the first state law that requires gender-neutral toy sections, but some retailers have already moved in this direction. Target, which has 1,915 stores in the U.S., phased out gender-based signage in its toy section starting in 2015.
Beginning on Jan. 1, 2024, any business that falls within the guidelines and fails to meet the requirement will face a $250 fine for a first offense and $500 for any after that.