Governor Gavin Newsom just signed a bill which requires stores that sell toys or childcare items to have a gender-neutral section.
Assembly Bill 1084, authored by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), would specifically have retail stores physically located in California with 500 or more employees that sell childcare items or toys to have a gender neutral aisle.
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Retailers are also required to label the area and include a “reasonable” selection. AB 1084 will be effective January 1, 2024. If the store fails to have a section by then, a penalty of up tp $250 will be given for a first violation, with subsequent penalties being as high as $500.
Sections for boys and girls will not be made illegal under the bill and will still be allowed in stores, but will now be paired with a “unisex,” “kids,” or “gender neutral” section.
AB 1084 faced many hurdles earlier this year. much like previous attempts at passing a similar bill in sessions past, largely due to the inclusion of clothing sections also being in the bill. Retail groups rallied against the bill because of clothing being included, with many lawmakers also being against the bill due to how disruptive it would be. Facing his bill going down for yet another year, Low removed the clothing language from the bill and lowered fines through amendments in March.
The amendments turned the tide in the state legislature, with nearly all on-the-fence Democrats approving the bill, leaving Republicans and a few Democrats to either oppose the bill or not vote on it at all. Passing in September in both houses, it led the way to being signed by the Governor on Saturday.
“I’m incredibly grateful to Gov. Gavin Newsom for signing AB 1084, which will bring California law up to speed with what many retailers have already realized: We need to stop stigmatizing what’s acceptable for certain genders and just let kids be kids,” said Low in a statement after the signing. “My hope is this bill encourages more businesses across California and the U.S. to avoid reinforcing harmful and outdated stereotypes,” Low said in an emailed statement.
“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 My hope is this bill encourages more businesses across California and the U.S. to avoid reinforcing harmful and outdated stereotypes. Part of it is to make sure if you’re a young girl that you can find a police car, fire truck, a periodic table or a dinosaur. And then similarly, if you’re a boy, if you’re more artistic and want to play with glitter, why not? Why should you feel the stigma of saying, ‘Oh, this should be shamed’ and going to a different location?”
“Traditionally children’s toys and products have been categorized by a child’s 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. The segregation of toys by a social construct of what is appropriate for which gender is the antithesis of modern thinking.”
LGBT groups, gender equality advocates, and other lawmakers also noted that having gender specific aisles and colors pressure children to conform with gender stereotypes and that AB 1084 would help children be less pressured.
Opposition against the passage of AB 1084
However, the passage of AB 1084 led many to speak against the now-law during the weekend and Monday.
“I would recommend we let parents be parents,” said Senator Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) in a statement. “Unlike the author, I actually have children, five of them to be exact, and I can tell you it is very convenient for parents. I don’t think parents need the government to step in and tell them how they should shop for their children.”
Store owners said the bill would cause stores hindrances while also likely costing them money.
“A lot of places don’t even have boys or girls sections anymore,” Alan Morgen, a toy store owner in Riverside County, told the Globe on Monday. “Most just have aisles based on the type of toy. I mean, c’mon, I dare you to try and figure out where to put Legos in a store with only boys and girls aisles. You put them in one over the other and parents will complain. It can also be a safety thing. Have toys of all types in the same aisle and parents can watch all their kids at the same time rather than them splitting up.”
“Plus you have to remember that kids are creative. Yeah, boys and girls do gravitate to the types of toys usually associated with them, but you would not believe how many girls I’ve seen get GI Joe’s so that Barbie would “get a better boyfriend then Ken,” or how many boys bought Wonder Woman or Black Widow toys because they thought she was great.”
“This is such a useless law because most stores are already gender neutral due to either convenience or because it makes fiscal sense to organize a store this way. And this will only hurt us because now we have to make an aisle just so we can put in neutral shade toys. You know what most stores will do? They’ll do the minimum. They’ll stick some non blue or pink things there and then fill the rest up with Legos, board games, or something else like that.”
“This law is going to make no sense. Whoever wrote it has likely never been in a toy store since they were young. We’ve just gone with the times. And we already solved the problem. Most stores already don’t really do this.”
Other lawmakers agreed as well, adding that it is the California government interfering with business decisions that would likely only hurt businesses now having to conform. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, speaking from outside of California, even noted the unusualness of the law in a tweet.
“California mandates gender-neutral toy aisles for large retailers,” tweeted Abbot on Sunday. “Not in Texas. In Texas, it is businesses — NOT government — that decide how they display their merchandise.”
California mandates gender-neutral toy aisles for large retailers.
Not in Texas.
In Texas, it is businesses — NOT government — that decide how they display their merchandise. https://t.co/zZuLqwfX0e
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) October 10, 2021
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