California legislation just signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom requires all large stores to “maintain a gender-neutral section or area ... in which a reasonable selection of the items and toys for children that it sells shall be displayed, regardless of whether they have been traditionally marketed for either girls or for boys.”

Having been led by many daughters through many toy sections, we have a few questions.

Legos (excluding Lego Friends, a pandering, pastel-hued offshoot of the main brand) are traditionally marketed to boys. But lots of girls love them too. Does anything in existing stores’ designs prevent girls from walking down the aisles where the bricks, Marvel action figures and red trucks are sold? Dolls, ponies, Disney princesses and bracelet-making kits tend to attract girls. This is partly because a powerful culture points them toward such products.

But research shows that some early toy preferences are not in fact socially constructed. Is it possible that California’s legislators, who no doubt preach the virtue of following the science on COVID and climate change, are less interested in the science here?

Do game aisles satisfy the new legal requirement? They are generally gender-neutral, and the law defines a toy as “a product designed or intended by the manufacturer to be used by children when they play.”

Can American Girl doll — a Mattel-owned juggernaut whose website asks visitors to choose whether they are “Grown-ups” or “Girls,” with no option whatsoever for boys — continue to do business in California?

If Sacramento will require retailers to desegregate (we use the term advisedly) kids’ toys, why don’t they similarly demand shampoos, razors, lotions and makeup be sold in a gender-neutral fashion? And demand “ethnic” hair-care and beauty products, which are often separated from those aimed at whites, be integrated?

Finally, despite basing the law on a sweeping state civil rights law that guarantees “full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges or services in all business establishments of every kind,” why are legislators limiting their law to the toy aisle and leaving alone kids’ (and adults’) clothing?

— New York Daily News/TNS

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