So you’re having a baby, are you? You fancy finding out the sex of your child before it is born in a hilarious and entertaining way, at a party with all your friends and family? Hooray! Welcome! This post is for you. Here’s why we need to stop gender reveal parties, and you can help achieve this glorious mission!
What are gender reveal parties?
They are gatherings of loved ones celebrating the joy of an upcoming birth, during which the gender of the soon-to-arrive child is revealed, usually in an entertaining manner. Cakes are cut into, and the resulting sponge examined to see if it’s dyed pink or blue, balloons are popped to reveal pink or blue glitter, dragons hatch from steaming eggs, breathing fire that gives off puffs of pink or blue smoke. You get the idea.
Why should we stop gender reveal parties?
They are not fit for purpose
If you want to ‘reveal’ the gender of your child, you’ll need something a lot more complex than an ultrasound: you’ll need a time machine. Because it’s more than possible that your child – whose ‘girl’ gender was heralded by reveal of pink albumen splattered in the yolks of pre-dyed eggs which you ceremonially smashed on concrete during the party – may grow up to tell you he’s actually a boy. Or non-binary. Or agender. Or or or.
If you want to reveal someone’s gender, the best way to do that is to wait a good long time until that person knows a lot more about themselves. The key benefit of this (apart from the obvious fact that you’re more likely to get it right) is that they’ll be able to attend the party when they’re old enough to understand it, and probably help with the planning too.
But WAIT! Perhaps you’re thinking ‘fuck off, GOTN, I don’t believe in all this trans and non-binary stuff, I think that genitals DO equal gender.’ You’re wrong, but that’s out of scope for this discussion. Let’s assume gender IS determined by genitals in which case…
They are kind of creepy when you think about it
Proudly wearing a pastel-blue t-shirt, you stand on a six-foot plinth in the town square, megaphone in hand. Crowds gather around you, waiting with bated breath to hear your announcement. After a suitably dramatic pause, you raise the megaphone to your lips and shriek “MY BABY HAS A PENIS! Hear ye hear ye! My baby has a penis!”
I mean… would you?
Let’s say you don’t intend to be quite that direct in what you’re announcing. Instead you just want the joy of looking forward to the princess-dress-and-tea-party things you’ll do with your girl, or the meat-gnawing-bareknuckle-boxing you’ll partake in with your little boy…
They enforce a rigid ‘either/or’ binary which WE ALL KNOW is bollocks
I genuinely believe, hand-on-heart, that every single man or woman reading this post will have enjoyed or done something in their life that is usually labelled by society as ‘for’ a different gender. Men, in order to nod vigorously in response to this statement you do not need to have popped on a dress or painted your nails, you just need to have experienced some caring emotions at some point or another, or had fun cooking a lovely meal. Cried at a sad film, hugged a baby, lit a scented candle while having a wank. Women, same back atcha: you do not need to have put up shelves or wrestled a bear or punched a stranger in a pub because he looked at you funny. But have you reacted with anger to something in the heat of the moment? Rolled your eyes at an adorable child, or done one of myriad other things which fall within the narrow box that society labels ‘masculine’?
You can embrace traditional ideas of binary gender all you like, but I know you know this is fucking true. Non binary and genderfluid people may know this experience in holistic, visceral ways that broadly-binary people like me can only imagine, but even for us gender is never as simple as ‘boy likes blue footballs, girl likes pink unicorns.’ And incidentally, if you’re steaming with rage at the stereotypes in the paragraph above and getting ready to hammer out a comment telling me men aren’t universally angry and women aren’t universally caring, you are proving my point spectacularly so I welcome you with my open, feminine arms.
The new person that’s about to arrive in the world didn’t roll out of a factory ready to be stamped with the same ‘Barbie or Ken’ labels as a thousand other tiny sproglets: it came from you and will be raised by you. And there is no way on this planet that you are simply and solely ‘blue’ or ‘pink’ – so why on Earth would you rent an alligator to crush a pre-dyed watermelon so you can make that same ‘pink or blue’ statement about your offspring?
Let’s say you disagree with this, and believe genuinely (and falsely) that men are men and women are women and never the twain shall tiptoe into each others’ territories. If that’s the case, and you really are that rigid in your beliefs, do you really want strangers to start interfering with that?
Gender reveal parties encourage specific treatment
Even if you want to maintain that there are only two genders (which, for clarity, I would merrily fight you over in a pub of your choosing once the plague has ended), when you ‘announce’ someone’s gender, you are telling people that gender is a very important thing. In your ideal scenario, perhaps this means that your pesky relatives will stop buying you these icky gender-neutral baby-gros that disgust your sensibilities so much. Maybe it means they’ll all cheer ‘GET READY FOR THE GENDER PAY GAP‘ when you slaughter the ritual lamb and discover your baby is a girl – aforementioned lamb having been fed a toxic breakfast of pastel-pink pellets in readiness of your strange party.
Maybe, though, you’ll have relatives like me. Ones who recognise your obsession with gender and resolve to buy our new cousin/nibling toys based on detailed examination of what they seem to enjoy rather than what you want to force them into. Maybe we’ll commit to picking only green babygros just to fuck with your head because it’s fun.
The bigger your announcement, the more likely people are to pay attention, and the more likely they are to act on that thing. It’s why changing your surname when you get married will not (in this society) be a completely neutral act. You make a statement, people pay attention. There’s no point having a gender reveal party to which no one is invited, where you fire a single mournful party popper off the edge of a remote hilltop, smiling to yourself as the blue-or-pink paper flutters down into the grass.
If you’ve reached this far and none of the arguments above have persuaded you, I’d like to anticipate one final question that is, perhaps, the most important one: where’s the harm? If you don’t believe that rigid notions of gender cause harm to trans, nonbinary, intersex and other gender non-conforming people, and you don’t believe that treating tiny babies in a specific way based purely on what’s in their nappies causes harm to those kids as they grow up then … where’s the harm in gender reveal parties?
They’ve started devastating wildfires.
Big thanks to @Hypno_Harlequin and @Beardynoise who pointed out when this went up on Twitter that the woman who first popularised gender reveal parties – holding one for her baby Bianca in 2008 – now speaks out against them.
Thanks to Bianca, who Karvunidis calls a “bad-ass”, she is now concerned that the parties she helped make popular are hurting trans and non-binary communities, a position shared by the many activists who have supported her stance. “At least when the child is born you are getting all the information at once: the sex, the colour of their hair, who they look like, how long they are, what their heart rate is. With the gender-reveal you’ve isolated one aspect of this person. When it gets elevated as being central to your identity that’s problematic,” she asserts.
In another article she explains that the ‘gender’ aspect was less relevant to her at the time than the fact they had reached an important milestone in the pregnancy:
“For me, it was a milestone,” she said. “I had had several miscarriages. It was like, ‘Oh yay, I’m finally at a point in my pregnancy where I know if it’s a boy or a girl’ rather than ‘Let’s saddle this kid with a whole identity’. I don’t think anybody was thinking like that in 2008.”