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Issue of the day: The rise of gender neutral toy retail

TOYS and gender are on the front burner as California becomes the first American state to move toward ‘gender neutral retail’ and Lego pledges to eliminate ‘gender bias’.

What’s happening?

California has made history as the first American state to adopt legislation requiring big retailers to include gender-neutral sections in their stores, in a law that was campaigned for by LGBTQ advocates who believe pink and blue marketing reinforces gender stereotypes and can be harmful to children’s development.

 

What will the sections include?

Retailers are to be told to display “a reasonable selection” of products “regardless of whether they have been traditionally marketed for either girls or for boys”. The legislation relates to toys and “childcare items,” including hygiene and teething products, so they will be in a new section, out with areas specifically labelled according to gender.

 

Are all stores affected?

Only those with at least 500 employees will be subject to the new legislation, which comes into law officially in 2024. It does not outlaw traditional boys and girls sections, but requires gender neutral areas to be included.

 

If stores don’t comply?

Firms that fail to abide by the new law could face a penalty of $250 for a first violation and $500 for any following violations.

 

The practice could now be rolled out?

Democrat state assemblyman Evan Low, who authored the bill, said he was “incredibly grateful” California Governor Gavin Newsom signed it. Low said: “My hope is this bill encourages more businesses across California and the US to avoid reinforcing harmful and outdated stereotypes.”

 

Opinion is divided?

The Consumer Federation of California supported the law, saying: “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.”

 

However?

Republicans and some conservative bodies argued against it. One senate candidate, Bernie Moreno, said: “Of the challenges facing California, Gavin Newsom does the bidding of the woke.”

 

What are Lego doing?

The Lego Group has said it will endeavour to remove gender stereotypes after partnering with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, a research group founded by the Hollywood actress that advocates for equal representation of women. They said a survey of 7,000 people in seven countries – the US, China, Poland, Russia, Japan, the Czech Republic and the UK – “tested for implicit bias in how parents define creativity differently for their sons and their daughters.”

 

It found?

One finding was that 70 per cent of parents said that while they would encourage their sons to play with Lego, only 24% would encourage daughters,” proving “girls are ready for the world but society isn’t quite ready to support their growth through play”.

Now?

Lego has pledged to remove gender bias and stereotypes from its products and marketing, saying: “Our job now is to encourage boys and girls who want to play with sets that may have traditionally been seen as ‘not for them’.”



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