California’s Getting Gender Neutral Toy Aisles. Should The UK Follow?

Gender neutral toy aisles will soon become mandatory in large Californian toy stores, in a new law that’s the first of its kind in America.

The law will come into effect in 2024 and doesn’t ban sections for boys and girls in stores. However, it stipulates that any retailers with 500 or more employees across their California stores should also include a gender neutral section in stores. Failure to comply will result in fines of up to $500 (£368) per offence.

“The segregation of toys by a social construct of what is appropriate for which gender is the antithesis of modern thinking,” democrat assemblyman Evan Low, one of the law’s co-authors, said in a statement.

But should toy stores follow suit in the UK? Some large retailers have already made the switch, without a specific law here.

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Toys R Us, for example, ditched the “boys” and “girls” categories on its website back in 2015. Instead, it now themes products by age group or interest, such as “arts and crafts” or “building sets and blocks”.

The change is likely to be popular with over half of parents. According to 2019 research by the Fawcett Society, six in 10 parents worry about gender stereotyping when it comes to shopping for their kids.

Psychologist Dr Tara Quinn-Cirillo thinks grouping toys in a non-gendered way is a good idea, but isn’t sure if the Californian law goes far enough. “If you still have aisles for specific genders in addition to gender neutral, then will this address this issue?” she asks.

Playing with certain toys can help with child development, she says, so no child should be dissuaded from them.

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