SACRAMENTO – Gender-fluid clothing entrepreneur Rob Smith opened the world’s first gender-free store in New York three years ago with an ambitious goal to spread his non-binary message and clothes into every retail space around the world.
But this LGBTQ activist fashion designer has run into a problem. He can’t seem to get big-box retailers in the United States to display his “The Phluid Project” line of clothes into their brick-and-mortar stores as much as he would like.
Under the guise of ridding big box stores of harmful gender stereotypes, Smith convinced the California Legislative LGBT Caucus Chair Evan Low (D-San Jose) to introduce a bill to punish companies with fines if they don’t make room for the kind of products Smith sells.
Smith’s bill has easily passed through two Assembly committees with a hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee set for Wednesday.
Similar bill shelved by the pandemic
Low originally introduced this legislative proposal last year, as AB 2826. This bill would have outlawed retail stores from displaying any children’s clothes and toys according to sex, but the legislation never got a hearing with pandemic-related bills receiving priority last year.
This year’s bill, AB 1084, is a little less demanding. Instead of outlawing all displays of boys and girls toys and clothes, this bill instead requires retail department stores with 500 or more employees to maintain a gender-neutral section for childcare care items, children’s clothing, and toys that will not separate items by sex.
In testimony before the Assembly Judiciary Committee on April 28, Smith explained he really wanted the state to outlaw boy and girl signage and “let kids shop where they want,” but he sees AB 1084 as a good first step.
Smith believes stores need to create “safe” and “affirming” gender-neutral spaces to protect kids from “gender stereotypes that cause serious, long-lasting harm.”
‘Follow your dreams’ sign hurts girls?
He specifically mentioned harmful gendered sales signs he recently saw in a retail store. While marketing messaging in the girl’s sections had signs that said “smile,” “follow your dreams,” and “be kind,” the signs promoting products marketed to boys read, “Legend,” “You are epic,” and “future hero.”
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