Parents Who Shop for Their Kids Need to Know About Alarming New Bill in California


There are three things I can think of that are leaving California at the moment.

First thing leaving: residents. For the first time in the state’s history, California experienced a net loss of 182,000 residents in 2020, The New York Times reported in May. While some of that was due to the pandemic, this comes after years of slow growth due to the cost of living, homelessness, crime and quality-of-life issues like feces on the streets of San Francisco.

Second thing leaving: representation in Congress. In another first, California lost a House of Representatives seat after 2020 Census reapportionment. It will still have the largest delegation in Congress, but it’ll consist of 52 representatives, not 53, according to The Associated Press.

Third thing leaving: totally separate toy and childcare aisles for boys and girls.

In another sign California’s politicians don’t get why the first two things are departing their state, the California Legislature passed a bill Wednesday that would force large department stores to display toys and “childcare items” — including hygiene items — in a gender-neutral manner.

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According to The Associated Press, the legislation was “aimed at getting rid of traditional pink and blue marketing schemes for items like toys and toothbrushes.”

“The bill would not outlaw traditional boys and girls sections in department stores, but it would require retailers to have a gender neutral section to display ‘a reasonable selection’ of items ‘regardless of whether they have been traditionally marketed for either girls or for boys,’” the AP reported.

The legislation, introduced in the Assembly and passed by the Senate, goes back to the Assembly for a procedural vote. Then it lands on Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. Assuming the governor doesn’t think it looks too silly to sign right before his Sept. 14 recall election, it sounds like something right up his alley.

This marks the third time California Assemblyman Evan Low has tried to get some version of this bill passed. Last year, the bill was introduced in February and was scheduled to be heard on March 22.

Is this legislation necessary?

As you may remember, our priorities as a nation — indeed, as a world — very rapidly shifted during the space of that month, and Reason reported Low dropped the bill in May to focus on coronavirus-related legislation. It was revived this year because there’s apparently nothing else that requires Low’s focus now, and, well, third time’s the charm.

Low has maintained the bill was inspired by Britten, a 10-year-old girl whose mother works in his office.

“Britten asked her mom while shopping why certain things in a store were ‘off limits’ to her because she was a girl, but would be fine if she was a boy,” Low said, according to the AP.

“Thankfully, my colleagues recognized the pure intentions of this bill and the need to let kids be kids.”

The “pure intentions” require stores with more than 500 employees to set aside this “reasonable selection” of its toys and childcare items or else they’ll be “liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $250 for a first violation or $500 for a subsequent violation,” in addition to attorney’s fees and costs.

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“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 reads.

“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.”

Somewhat distressingly, the bill doesn’t define “reasonable selection.”

Republican opponents have pointed out the nanny-state implications of the law. State Sen. Melissa Melendez, who voted against the legislation, said she’d “recommend we 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,” she said, according to ABC News.

“I don’t think parents need the government to step in and tell them how they should shop for their children.”

Democratic State Sen. Scott Wiener said that while he and Low were “childless gay men,” that didn’t mean they shouldn’t voice their opinion on the matter.

“We know what it was like to grow up not conforming to the way that your gender is supposed to be,” he said. “This is about making safe spaces for all children in today’s society and not pushing, sometimes forcing children to conform.”

By having separate boys and girls aisles? In California?

The supporters of this bill seem to be way off base in terms of judging the state of the state they’re living in, especially considering it’s one of the most liberal in the nation.

Low said last year, after dropping the bill, 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.”

It does nothing of the sort, however. It’s an alarmingly ill-defined piece of legislation that demands stores create a genderless carve-out for social engineering purposes, with no limit — and if they don’t, time to pay up. It doesn’t eliminate boys and girls aisles, but it doesn’t define what a “reasonable selection” is, either.

Stores could do this on their own in markets where the demand exists. Target has been doing exactly that since 2015, the AP noted, doing away with some gendered signage. California’s many, many liberal parents could also go about parenting liberally, the way they did before this, without the nanny state stepping in and saying how stores should be arranged.

But no: This apparently had to be addressed via legislation. Instead of addressing affordable housing or quality-of-life issues, this is what legislative bandwidth is being spent on.

Hello, legally enforced gender-neutral toy aisles. Goodbye, common sense. (And goodbye, more residents. And, heaven willing, more House seats.)

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture