A woman and a little girl look at dolls on November 30, 2011, in a giant toys store in Strasbourg, e...

California Bill Aims To Make Kid Sections At Big Retailers Gender Neutral

An 8-year-old girl inspired the bill after asking why stores get to decide what’s a girl toy or a boy toy?

Stores in California that sell children’s clothing or toys may soon be forced to undergo a makeover if a recently introduced bill passes the California State Legislature. A young girl’s question about gender stereotypes in toys led one state legislator to draft a law essentially banning “Boys” and “Girls” sections at stores in favor of children sections that are more gender-neutral.

If passed, Assembly Bill 1084 would require any retail department store selling children’s items with 500 or more employees to “maintain undivided areas” on its sales floor where children’s clothing, toys, or child care items shall be displayed “regardless of whether a particular item has traditionally been marketed for either girls or for boys.” Stores would also be prohibited from using signage to indicate whether a particular area or collection of items is for girls or boys. Any store that fails to make their children’s sections gender-neutral would, under the bill, face a fine of $1,000.

California State Assemblyman Evan Low has said it was a question from a then 8-year-old girl that ultimately motivated him to write the bill, which was first introduced during the 2019-2020 legislative session. “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?’” Low said when introducing an earlier version of the bill in February 2020.

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In comments to the Sacramento Bee, Low explained Britten had been confused as to why she only ever found science-related toys in sections marked as being for boys. “That was the impetus of this, which is how do we make a safe space today for children in society,” he told the paper.

When introducing an earlier version of the bill, which was reportedly pulled as California’s State Legislature pivoted to focus and prioritize the COVID-19 pandemic, last year Low claimed it would “help children express themselves freely and without bias.”

“We need to let kids be kids,” he said at the time.

Of course, some national retailers have already made efforts to create more gender-neutral children’s departments. In 2015, Target announced it was moving away from gendered-signage and gendered-colors in areas like kids’ bedding and toys.

“We know that shopping preferences and needs change and, as guests have pointed out, in some departments like Toys, Home or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary,” the retailer said in a statement announcing the change. “We heard you, and we agree.”

But the question remains: Will Low’s fellow state legislators agree?