Gender Reveal Parties are a growing craze among today's parents. It's not enough for for the expectant mom or dad-to-be to Facebook or "Tweet" everything from a snapshot of the positive home pregnancy test to play-by-play commentary from the delivery room. Now, even previously private moments such as learning the sex of one's child are turned into public events.
So-Called Gender Reveal Parties? They Aren't Actually About Gender
Beyond reenforcing today's culture of oversharing, the increasingly popular Gender Reveal Party gets it wrong even in its name. It's not about a baby's gender but that child's sex.
Image credit: Kristin Ausk at Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.
According to The New York Times, the first so-called Gender Reveal Party video on YouTube dates to 2008. As of 2012, these parties are now creating a whole new cottage industry for specialty favors, invitations, decorations and cake designs as the idea explodes in popularity. A Gender Reveal Party typically involve games, pink and blue candy and treats, and even dividing up attendees into "Team Boy" and "Team Girl" before the big news is announced. The reveal may involve opening a sealed envelope from the ultrasound technician, who has been instructed to keep silent about the baby's sex until that point. The information may also have been provided to a bakery in advance so they could surprise the parents with either a blue or pink cake beneath the decoriative frosting. Such reveal moments are often videotaped so they can then be posted on YouTube or Facebook for everyone else in the world to see.
At its most bizarre extreme, there are even Ultrasound Parties going on where an ultrasound technician attends the party with ultrasound equipment, and performs an examination on the spot in front of the waiting party audience! What if something is developmentally wrong with the fetus—is that something a mother and father to be should learn while party goers are gathered around stuffing their faces with blue-and-pink frosted cupcakes?
Beyond the possibilities of an ultrasound-gone-wrong, what's the problem with the idea of the Gender Reveal Party? Whether or not such events are narcissistic and "a mild symptom of cultural despair" (The New Yorker), they get their basic terminology wrong.
Such a party is not about revealing the gender of a baby, but learning the child's apparent sex. As The World Health Organization succinctly defines the difference:
"'Male' and 'female' are sex categories, while 'masculine' and 'feminine' are gender categories."
A child might be born with the biological and physiological characteristics that are used to differentiate between male and female scientifically, but realize when growing up or later in life that they are transgender and do not identify with the sex (and assumed gender) they were assigned at birth.
Sex vs. Gender: Why is it important to make a difference?
Cissexism dominates our modern society, and these Gender Reveal Parties are yet another example of this problem: the assumption that sex and gender are interchangeable words and concepts, ignoring or outright dismissing the difference between them. They also reenforce the tired gender normative idea of "Pink is for girls; blue is for boys" such that even before birth, children are being lead in how they should dress, act and present themselves based solely on their genitalia.
Of course, I suppose that most people might look askew at an invitation that arrives for a baby's "Sex Reveal Party" - but perhaps that in and of itself points out the absurdity of such events in the first place.
Your thoughts: A Poll
What do you think of so-called "gender reveal parties"?
Sources and related links
- WHO | What do we mean by "sex" and "gender"?
Explanation of "sex" and "gender"
- 'Gender Reveal' Parties: Attention Whoring or Fun Trend? | The Stir
I love a good party as much as the next person, but the Gender Reveal Party ... seems a bit much. If this little trend hasn't made it t...
- Gender Revealing Parties: Making the Womb Sexist?
Every human is unique and natural variation occurs which includes differences in genital appearance and function as well as a spectrum of chromosomal possibilities.
- OnMilwaukee.com Kids & Family: Gender reveal parties take the cake for some parents-to-be
Around the 20th week of pregnancy, parents-to-be can usually find out the sex of the baby through an ultrasound. Until recently, there were two options: find out if there are boy parts or turn your head away from the screen...
- Narcissism in Pink and Blue - The New Yorker
"In the case of gender-reveal parties, couples take a private moment made possible by science and oblige others to join in, with the result...that the focus turns from where it ought to be (in this case, the baby) to the self."
- At Parties, Revealing a Baby’s Gender - NYTimes.com
Gender-reveal baby parties are a modern way to savor the surprise and share it with others, or perhaps just to enjoy it somewhere other than a doctor’s office.
- Ultrasound Parties: Sonograms With Friends Grow In Popularity, Become Latest Pregnancy Trend (Report
The increasingly public nature surrounding various aspects of pregnancy has gone one step further: Ultrasound parties are now growing in popularity, according to NBC's "Today."
- "Ultrasound Parties" Becoming New, Controversial Trend | Parents News Now
A growing number of expectant couples are hosting what is being dubbed an ultrasound party, in which an ultrasound technician brings equipment to a home, and...
For further reading...
|The Transgender Child: Revised & Updated Edition: A Handb...|
This handbook is the first of its kind, presenting up-to-date information vitally useful for parents and caregivers of transgendered children. But it's not just for family members; teachers, therapists, and anyone who works regularly around children should be familiar with this information as we become more aware of the issue of gender identity in today's culture, and how we can help young people accept who they are from an early age.
This book, written by a developmental and clinical psychologist, looks at the challenges faced by parents raising gender nonconforming children - and how to create affirmative, positive spaces for children to explore who they are and who they want to be.