The California State Assembly is set to consider a new bill that would require department store to have “gender-neutral” children’s sections to fight discrimination against gender-nonconforming children.
“Large retailers that sell toys, clothes, and other children’s items in California would have to devote floor space to merchandise marketed to both boys and girls under a new bill,” Politico reported. “Stores would be able to sell the same products they do now as long as they maintain some areas where shoppers can find all toys or clothes, regardless of gender-based marketing, under CA AB2826 (19R) from Assemblyman Evan Lowe (D-Campbell). It would apply to department stores with 500 or more employees beginning in 2023.”
Speaking to Politico, Lowe said that the idea of the bill came from one of his staffers who told him that her daughter had wanted an item in the boy’s section but felt dismayed because the toy was designated for boys.
“This is an issue of children being able to express themselves without bias,” Lowe said.
“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 bill states.
Lowe had previously introduced the bill in 2020 to little avail, prompting him to pull it. However, he is determined to push it for a second time because “the policy behind this bill is not only important in regards to addressing perceived societal norms but also ensuring that prejudice and judgment does not play a prominent role in our children’s lives,” he says.
The introduction of the bill comes as retailers in California are struggling to remain afloat due to COVID-19 lockdowns, which have been particularly harsh in the state. California stores are forced to operate at a 25 per cent capacity, supposedly to slow the spread of the disease.
Politico argues that the bill is being introduced amid a growing backlash against gender-specific toys and clothing, with groups like Let Toys Be Toys arguing that gendered merchandise perpetuates entrenched gender stereotypes and makes children feel ashamed for not conforming.
As Reason magazine states, however, the bill would rob retailers of agency in providing gender-neutral displays for themselves. It is difficult for items of clothing to be classified as “gender-neutral” due to fit and sizing differences that make gender-neutrality in a retail environment difficult, if not prohibitively expensive to achieve.