A new bill that would eliminate ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ toy and clothing sections in large stores in favor of a single gender-neutral section has been moved to a March Committee hearing this week.
Assembly Bill 2826, authored by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), would specifically force stores with at least 500 employees to have one undivided aisle for child items. The bill specifically mentions toy and clothing aisles, although the bill can likely be applied to other sections.
Starting in 2023, stores that don’t comply with the proposed law would face as-of-yet undisclosed civil penalties.
Bill supporters have said gender segregated aisles for children makes it harder for shoppers to compare products and implies that one gender using something made for another gender is inappropriate.
A statement from Assemblyman Low’s office about AB 2826 goes into more detail, saying “Clothing and toys sections of department stores that are separated along gender lines pigeonhole children. No child should feel stigmatized for wearing a dinosaur shirt or playing with a Barbie doll.”
Assemblyman Low, who had previously authored the gender-neutral government language bill ACR 260 in 2018, also weighed in, giving his own personal reason for the bill.
“I was inspired to introduce this bill after 8-year-old Britten asked, ‘Why should a store tell me what a girl’s shirt or toy is?,” said Assemblymember Evan Low in a press release. “Her bill will help children express themselves freely and without bias. We need to let kids be kids.”
Meanwhile, some consumer groups have already come out in opposition to AB 2826.
“Toy aisles are fine since most stores already do that and most are for anyone anyway,” said consumer advocate Grace Wayne. “But many people are upset about clothing aisles. Children’s underwear is different for certain reason like adult underwear, and there are significant differences in clothing even at a younger age. It has nothing to do with clothes color or designs but more about shape and structure of it.”
“Some others I’ve talked to are outraged because they’re afraid that this could lead to a confused gender-identity, but many of us aren’t very much concerned about that. It’s more about how clothes is designed for each gender, even at a young age. Also, children that young may not be prepared to learn about certain parts of gender differences and other similar problems.”
“This shouldn’t even b a law since most stores already do this regardless. Give it 5 years and pretty much every store is going to combine aisles anyway.”
“And then, what about Amazon? They’re online in California and they separate. Do we do it to them too?”
“It’s not about challenging the freedom of expression, it’s teaching kids that different clothing for different genders has a purpose for each sex.”
AB 2826 is due to be heard in Committee in late March.