Just over a week ago, California passed a law that requires department stores to create gender-neutral sections with a “reasonable selection” of gender-neutral toys and childcare items.

  • To be clear: Stores may still have sections for boys and girls, but they Also need to have an unlabeled section.

Awakened and anti-awakened clash in Facebook comments on CA’s new bill, the first of its kind passed in the United States, with supporters claiming it helps fight gender stereotypes and opponents claiming the government has too much reach. But the point is … the toy industry has evolved towards gender neutrality for most of the past decade, without lawmakers forcing its hand.

Retail side:

  • Toys “R” Us (who is back from the dead) announced it was removing gender signage from its stores in 2013 and removed the “boy” and “girl” filters from its website in 2015.
  • Target non-gender aisles and labels in 2015.
  • Ditto for Walmart aisles, except you can still search by gender online.

Even though stores leave their “girl” and “boy” inscriptions … they may have trouble sorting toys in binary aisles:

  • Mattel has a genderless line of Barbies.
  • Easy Bake Oven began selling a silver and black version after a viral petition in 2012 derided the “girly” color scheme.
  • Hasbro has launched a Potato Head Family Set that lets kids mix up combos from non-traditional parents.

The latest brand to board the gender-less toy train is Lego

Lego announced this week that it will be removing the genre from its small blocks – which already don’t distinguish between the soles of the feet – through marketing efforts or otherwise. He based the decision on a major survey which showed that girls “remain hampered by entrenched gender stereotypes in society as they get older.”

Parents of children aged 6 to 14 responded to the first half of the survey and their children to the second half, which learned revealing things about entrenched gender stereotypes, such as:

  • 76% of parents said they would encourage their sons to play with Legos, but only 24% would recommend Legos to their daughters.
  • 71% of boys fear that they will be made fun of playing with toys with a female code, compared to 42% of girls for toys with a male code.

These differences do not end with the toy aisle. Parents said they were more likely to encourage girls to cook and baking than boys, and more likely to encourage boys to play sports than girls.

Zoom out: For proponents of gender neutrality in the toy aisle, this stereotype of what a ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ can do To do limit what children think they can to be when they grow up.—JW