Gender-neutral toy sections required in big California retailers

Gender-neutral toy sections California

Major retailers in California are required to have gender-neutral toy sections under a state law that went into effect Monday. Photo: Q Voice News.

Major retailers in California are required to have gender-neutral toy sections under a state law that went into effect Monday.

The law stems from AB 1084 bill, a 2021 bill requiring toy retailers with a physical location in the state and at least 500 employees “to maintain a gender-neutral section or area to be labeled at the discretion of the retailer.”

California became the first state in the nation to make such a requirement. The bill passed in a 49-16 vote in September 2021 and was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom the following month.

Clothes are not included.

The law only applies to toys and “childcare items,” such as hygiene and teething products.

“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 law states.

Gay Bob doll came out of the closet in 1977

Assemblyman Evan Low, (D-San Jose), who identifies as gay, authored the bill. It was the third time Democrats in the state Legislature introduced legislation regarding gender-neutral toy sections. Similar bills had failed in 2019 and 2020.

Low said he was inspired by the 10-year-old daughter of one of his staffers, who asked her mom why certain items in the store were “off limits” to her because she was a girl.

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 “My hope is this bill encourages more businesses across California and the U.S. to avoid reinforcing harmful and outdated stereotypes.”

While California is the first state to require this, some large department stores have already changed how they display their products.

For example, Target Corp., with more than 1,900 stores across the United States, announced in 2015 it would stop using some gender-based signs in its stores.

The bill was opposed by some Republicans and some conservative groups, who said the government should not tell parents how to shop for their children.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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