Oct 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

California mandates gender-neutral toy aisles for large retailers

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks to members of the media after meeting students at Melrose Leadership Academy during a school visit in Oakland, California on Wednesday, Sept. 15

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks to members of the media at Melrose Leadership Academy in Oakland in September. Photo: Stephen Lam/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Saturday a bill requiring large retailers to provide gender-neutral toy sections, per the Los Angeles Times.

Why it matters: California is the first state to adopt such a law. LGBTQ advocates have pointed out that marketing methods using pink and blue hues "pressure children to conform to gender stereotypes," AP notes.

  • The Consumer Federation of California supported the law, saying: "Keeping similar items that are traditionally marketed either for girls or for boys separated makes it more difficult for the consumer to compare the products and incorrectly implies that their use by one gender is inappropriate," the Sacramento Bee reports.

Details: The bill, which will take effect in 2024, overcame opposition from Republicans and conservative groups, who said it was government overreach.

  • The law states that retail stores with 500 or more workers must sell toys and child care products (excluding clothes) in a gender-neutral section that's "labeled at the discretion of the retailer ... regardless of whether they have been traditionally marketed for either girls or for boys."
  • Retailers can continue to offer other toys and child care goods that are traditionally marketed specifically toward girls or boys.
  • Companies that fail to comply with the new law could face a civil penalty of $250 for a first violation and $500 for any subsequent violations.

What they're saying: Democratic Assemblyman Evan Low, who introduced the legislation, said "we need to stop stigmatizing what's acceptable for certain genders and just let kids be kids," per AP.

  • "My hope is this bill encourages more businesses across California and the U.S. to avoid reinforcing harmful and outdated stereotypes," Low added.

Of note: Retailers have in recent years been moving away from gender stereotypes — notably Target, which announced in 2015 it would stop using some gender-based signs in its stores.

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