California assembly members to introduce bill requiring gender-neutral retail department in stores
03/14/2021 // Nolan Barton // Views

California Assembly Members Evan Low (D-Cupertino) and Cristina Garcia (D-Los Angeles) on Feb. 18 introduced Assembly Bill 1084 (AB 1084) a bill that would require a gender-neutral retail department in stores across the state.

The bill would add Part 2.57, titled "Gender Neutral Retail Departments," to Division 1 of the Civil Code.

AB 1084 would ensure that brick-and-mortar shops have to display the majority of their products and clothing for children in one undivided, unisex area on the sales floor.

Retailers would have to offer their toys and childcare products in a gender-neutral format and shops would be barred from putting up signage indicating whether a product was intended for a boy or a girl.

Retail stores in most of the state are only allowed to operate at 25 percent capacity because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. For California-based retailers selling children's products online, the bill would require them to put up a page on their website that offers the products in a gender-neutral fashion. They could title that section of their website "kids," "unisex" or "gender-neutral."

Low introduced a similar bill last year, telling a news outlet at the time that he was hoping to create a more inclusive shopping experience. "This is an issue of children being able to express themselves without bias," he said. (Related: Mattel releases a "gender-neutral" Barbie and the video promoting it is preposterous.)

The assemblyman dropped the bill in May to prioritize COVID-19-related works. But he promised to pick up the fight later, saying in a statement that "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. I look forward to working on this issue in the future."


He kept that promise.

If it passes, a retail department store that would fail to comply within 30 days of receiving written notice of the violation from the attorney general should pay a civil penalty of $1,000. The proposed law would only apply to retail department stores with 500 or more employees and would only take effect beginning January 1, 2024.

But mandating changes to provide a genderless child section to shoppers might not be necessary.

Stores promote gender-neutral child section even without mandate

Even before the introduction of the bill, some retailers have been promoting a gender-neutral shopping environment in the child section.

In 2015, the Disney Store banished girl and boy designations from its children's Halloween costumes, labeling all outfits "for kids." It also switched to generic tags on lunchboxes, backpacks and other accessories. Amazon also stopped using gender-based categories for children's toys.

"The gender barriers are breaking down, and both manufacturers and retailers are not labeling toys like they used to," said TTPM chief editor Jim Silver at the time. "The industry's learned that you shouldn't be labeling for a specific gender. There are so many girls who want to be Iron Man and Captain America, and boys who want to play with Easy-Bake."

Also in 2015, Target announced that it would get rid of separate sections for children's toys and bedding aisles.

Target's move came after Abi Bechtel of Ohio took to Twitter to protest a sign on display at the retailer that showed "Girls' Building Sets."

But the company was careful to note that they weren't eliminating all gender distinctions in their store layout and signage, saying that "some cases, like apparel, where there are fit and sizing differences" gender-based suggestions were appropriate.

The bill would deprive Target and other retailers of making that choice. The fact that some retail stores haven't made the same move suggests that some customers still find gendered distinctions helpful.

Follow for more news and information related to gender issues.

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