New Law in California Requires Retailers to Have Gender-Neutral Aisles For Kids' Products

CC BY 2.0 / Flickr / switthoft / Gender signs
Gender signs - Sputnik International, 1920, 10.10.2021
The first steps towards gender neutrality in retail in the United States were taken by Target back in 2015 when the corporation announced that it would "phase out gender-based signage to help strike a better balance".
California Governor Gavin Newsom on Saturday signed a new bill into law, mandating retail shops with a total of 500 or more employees to introduce gender-neutral sections for children's products.
While not outlawing sections for boys and girls, the law instead requires stores to designate areas that display "a reasonable selection" of items "regardless of whether they have been traditionally marketed for either girls or for boys". The requirements, however, are not mandated for clothes.
"Unjustified differences in similar products that are traditionally marketed either for girls or for boys can be more easily identified by the consumer if similar items are displayed closer to one another in one, undivided area of the retail sales floor", the bill says.
The legislation is set to take effect in 2024, with companies failing to comply potentially facing a civil penalty of $250 for a first violation, with it rising to $500 for subsequent violations.
Evan Low, the Democratic assemblyman who authored the bill, expressed his gratitude to Newsom over the passage of the legislation and celebrated the forthcoming changes.

"We need to stop stigmatising 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 "My hope is this bill encourages more businesses across California and the US to avoid reinforcing harmful and outdated stereotypes".

Not everyone appears to share the sentiment, however. The bill has prompted an outcry from conservative critics, who said it was an overreach by the government, with some arguing that lawmakers should let "parents be parents".

"Unlike the author, I actually have children, five of them to be exact, and I can tell you it is very convenient for parents", said Melissa Melendez, a Republican state senator, cited by AP. "I don't think parents need the government to step in and tell them how they should shop for their children".

Despite opposition by conservative critics, the push toward gender neutrality was already made by Target in 2015, when the retail company announced it would step away from gender-based signs in its stores across the country. Amazon has also ditched gender categories for children's toys.
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