California became the first state to require department stores to have gender-neutral toy sections, a move designed to diminish the impact of stereotypes on children.
The Associated Press explains:
The new law, signed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom [on Saturday], does not outlaw traditional boys and girls sections at department stores. Instead, it says large stores must also have a gender-neutral section to display “a reasonable selection” of items “regardless of whether they have been traditionally marketed for either girls or for boys.”
Assemblyman Evan Low says he wrote the bill after the 10-year old daughter of a staffer questioned why some toys seemed off-limits to her.
“We need to stop stigmatizing what’s acceptable for certain genders and just let kids be kids,” Low said. “My hope is this bill encourages more businesses across California and the U.S. to avoid reinforcing harmful and outdated stereotypes.”
In a statement to the assembly, Low added:
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.
Low said a gender-neutral section will help families comparison shop.
The bill only applies to businesses with 500 or more employees, meaning small retailers would not be impacted. Some large department stores, like Target, have already begun phasing out signs that reference gender.
Conservative groups have bristled at the law, saying it represents an unnecessary regulation. “Activists and state legislators have no right to force retailers to espouse government-approved messages about gender. It’s a violation of free speech and it’s just plain wrong,” said California Family Council President Jonathan Keller in a statement.
The law goes into effect in 2024. First time violations will result in a $250 fine, followed by a $500 penalty for future infractions.
Meanwhile, Lego, the iconic toy company, announced Monday that they will “work to remove gender stereotypes from its products and marketing,” according to an NPR report.
“The benefits of creative play such as building confidence, creativity and communication skills are felt by all children and yet we still experience age-old stereotypes that label activities as only being suitable for one specific gender,” Julia Goldin, Lego’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement, adding, “At the LEGO Group we know we have a role to play in putting this right.”