Starting in the new year, major retailers in California will have to create gender-neutral toy sections for children or face fines under a controversial state law. This move, signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2021, aims to challenge the traditional pink and blue color coding of toys and promote gender equality.
The law applies to California-based department stores with 500 or more employees that sell "childcare items or toys" for children aged 12 and under. These department stores must now have a gender-neutral section that includes items traditionally marketed for either girls or boys. Failure to comply could result in a $250 fine for the first violation and a $500 fine for subsequent ones.
Advocates for LGBTQ rights see this law as an important step towards breaking gender stereotypes and promoting inclusivity for children. They argue that separating toys by gender reinforces harmful social norms and limits children's choices and development. As Assemblyman Evan Low, who introduced the bill, put it, "the segregation of toys by a social construct of what is appropriate for which gender is the antithesis of modern thinking."
BREAKING REPORT: ⚠️ California Stores Will Now Face Up to $500 Fines for NOT OFFERING Gender-Neutral Toy Options, Under New Law Signed by Governor Gavin Newsom..
The TARGET AGE GROUP for 'children' in the context of this law is defined as those 12 YEARS OLD and younger.
Set to… pic.twitter.com/uoUgVRtaZ9
— Chuck Callesto (@ChuckCallesto) December 6, 2023
Children are already able to decipher which toys are meant for girls and which for boys by the age of 3, according to experts. This is why Low was encouraged to write the bill in the first place - to break away from societal norms and let children be themselves without feeling pressured into certain roles or interests.
But not everyone is on board with this new law. Some see it as government overreach and an infringement on free speech. Jonathan Keller of the California Family Law Council argues that activists and legislators have no right to force retailers to promote government-approved messages on gender. He believes the law goes against the principles of free speech and is simply wrong.
Despite these objections, many retailers had already started moving towards gender-neutral toy sections prior to this law being passed, with Target dropping their boys and girls sections in 2015. This shift reflects a growing societal awareness of gender equality and inclusivity, and the bill hopes to continue this progress.
Governor Newsom's office has not provided a comment on the new law or the backlash it has received from some. However, Low remains optimistic and believes that this bill will encourage more businesses across the country to avoid enforcing outdated gender stereotypes.
The new law is just the latest in a series of moves by California to challenge gender inequality. Other recent laws have mandated gender diversity on corporate boards, increased pay transparency, and required all-gender signs on single-occupancy bathrooms.
Come January 1st, retailers in California will need to have their gender-neutral toy sections in place, or risk facing fines. While some may see this as an unnecessary government intervention, advocates see it as a crucial step towards creating a more equal and inclusive society for children.