Gender-reveal party craze comes under attack

Blue for a boy: Confetti, balloons and cakes are popular tools for revealing the baby’s sex.

Are gender-reveal parties morally wrong? We live in increasingly gender-fluid times, yet events to declare the sex of an unborn baby — with pink and blue smoke or cupcakes — are on the rise.

It’s the first question everyone asks after a new arrival: “Is it a boy or a girl?”

Some parents want to shout out the news to the whole world. And, now, many of them are — by posting their gender-reveal parties on social media.

At these parties, parents reveal (or even learn for themselves) whether the baby they are expecting is a boy or a girl. When the trend was in its infancy, couples settled for slicing into a cake with pink or blue filling, or releasing balloons from a box.

But in the desire to go viral on social media, parents-to-be are now trying to out-do one another with increasingly outrageous stunts.

Sometimes, it goes very wrong. This week, police in Australia’s Gold Coast released footage of a car bursting into flames at a gender-reveal party.

“Burn-outs” (when cars give off pink or blue smoke) have become a trend in their own right in Australia. But they are not the only examples of extreme gender reveals.

In 2017, a California wildfire was sparked when an off-duty police officer shot his gun at a target packed with a colourful explosive. It took more than 800 firefighters to contain the blaze.

Last year, the Kleibert family from Louisiana fed their pet alligator a watermelon filled with blue jelly. The video was viewed over seven million times.

And just last week, actress Shay Mitchell (Netflix drama Pretty Little Liars) hired two actors dressed as pink and blue Power Rangers to stage a fight in her home. Things nearly went horribly wrong when the pair fell into her pool, and almost drowned.

These headline-grabbing incidents have got people questioning the whole idea of gender-reveal parties. “Reckless, pointless and bizarrely old-fashioned” writes Zoe Williams in The Guardian.

“Gender-essentialism — the pink-for-a-girl, blue-for-a-boy stuff — has slipped completely out of mode, recognised for what it is, a straitjacket. In fact, the whole idea of defining an individual by its sex has gone by the wayside, and, with it, any great excitement at finding out what that sex is.”

One letter-writer to The New York Times recently caused a stir by declaring that she would boycott gender-reveal parties because “they perpetuate the stigma against non-binary genders”.

Gender-reveal cakes shared online are topped with slogans like: “Wheels or Heels?”; “Touchdowns or Tutus?”, or even “Ruffles or Rifles?” Boys are associated with sports and violence, and girls with pretty clothing.

These parties draw a (blue or pink) line between the genders. Surely this is morally wrong.

Sugar, spice and all things nice

Relax, says one point of view. These expectant parents are happy and excited. If you they have invited you to their party, then you are probably a close friend or relative. You definitely should not let the colour of a cupcake or little bit of blue smoke get in the way of your relationship. Wrong is too strong a word.

Wait, says another point of view. These parties are (i) promoting the idea that gender is fixed in the womb, which it isn’t; (ii) reinforcing the idea that gender is binary, which it isn’t; (iii) foisting gendered expectations on children before they even enter the world, which is harmful. If that’s not wrong, what is?

You Decide

  1. Are gender-reveal parties are good idea?
  2. Should babies be gender-neutral until they can choose for themselves?

Activities

  1. Write a list of ten gender-neutral baby names.
  2. Class debate time! “This House believes that gender-reveal parties should be banned.”

Some People Say...

“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”

Gloria Steinem, American feminist journalist

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Over one million posts on Instagram have been tagged #genderreveal. Gender reveals have become increasingly popular over the last 10 years, in line with the rise of social media. Most women who want to know their baby’s gender find out at their mid-pregnancy scan (usually between 16 to 20 weeks). Some blood tests can tell the sex much earlier.
What do we not know?
If gender reveals are here to stay. Social media trends come and go, but gender reveals have been growing for at least five years. It mirrors a trend for extravagant proposals and baby showers shared on Instagram and Facebook.

Word Watch

Learn
Sometimes, a sonographer will tell the gender to a trusted family member or friend of the couple. This person will then organise the pink or blue reveal without the expectant parents’ knowledge.
Infancy
Early years; at the start.
Touchdowns
In US football, you score a touchdown when the ball is moved into the end zone, either by running it in or catching it. A touchdown is worth six points.