Toy Stores Must Go Gender Neutral in California

In a significant move set to be implemented in the new year, major retailers in California are gearing up to establish gender-neutral toy sections for children or potentially face fines of up to $500. This initiative, signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2021, targets California-based department stores with 500 or more employees that sell items categorized as “childcare items or toys.”

The legislation mandates the creation of gender-neutral sections for childcare items, irrespective of their traditional marketing for boys or girls. The definition of “childcare items” encompasses products intended to aid sleep, feeding, relaxation, or addressing needs such as teething, specifically aimed at children aged 12 and under.

According to the terms outlined in the bill, failure to establish these gender-neutral sections could result in penalties of $250 for a first violation and $500 for subsequent violations. Assemblyman Evan Low, the bill’s original sponsor and current congressman for California, drew parallels between this mandate and prior laws focused on gender equity initiatives, likening it to earlier corporate board diversity requirements and restroom sign changes.

Low emphasized the departure from the conventional practice of categorizing toys by gender, citing its contradiction with contemporary perspectives. He argued that segregating toys according to perceived gender norms contradicts modern thinking and reinforces outdated stereotypes.

Supporters of the bill, including Governor Newsom, echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the need to prevent the stigmatization of toys based on gender. Newsom highlighted research indicating that children, once exposed to gender-specific labels on toys, often disregard these labels, supporting the move toward gender-neutral toy sections.

However, critics viewed the legislation as a government intrusion into private sector operations and an attempt to enforce social change on companies. Jonathan Keller, president of the conservative California Family Law Council, criticized the law as a violation of free speech and governmental overreach.

New York Post