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As of recently, California is breaking ground as the first US state to require large retail stores to provide gender-neutral toy sections. The Assembly Bill 1084 was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom. The bill was inspired by an experience by California Assemblyman, Evan Low, who shared that the 10-year-old daughter of a staff member inquired as to why some toys were off-limits to her being that she’s a girl.

The bill includes a statement, “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 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.”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

According to the Washington Post, assemblyman Low spoke to the assembly’s judiciary committee, explaining that toys have traditionally been categorized by gender, but that shouldn’t be the case anymore.

He said:

“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. The segregation of toys by a social construct of what is appropriate for which gender is the antithesis of modern thinking.”

Photo: Pexels/Anna Shvets

The new law doesn’t prevent retail stores from still maintaining both a boys’ and girls’ sections, nor does it apply to clothing. However, it does require large stores to have a gender-neutral selection of toys, as well as childcare items – such as teething or hygiene products. It also exempts small businesses.

Low explained to AP News, “We need to stop stigmatizing what’s acceptable for certain genders and just let kids be kids. My hope is this bill encourages more businesses across California and the U.S. to avoid reinforcing harmful and outdated stereotypes.”

Photo: PXFUEL

While this is the first state law to require gender-neutral toy sections, there have already been some retailers that have begun to move away from age-old gendered toy sections. Target, which has around 1915 retail stores across the US, made the move to phase out gender-based signage within its toy section as far back as 2015.

The new law is set to come into effect in January 2024. Once in effect, any businesses that fall into the category requirements will face consequences for not following the guidelines. For failing to meet the guidelines, the first offense will result in a $250 fine. Any subsequent offenses after that will result in a $500 fine.

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