By Emily SengerUpdated Mar 17, 2017
This is probably an unpopular opinion, but here goes: I’m not a fan of baby gender-reveal parties. Though my husband and I found out the sex of our first baby in advance, and told people when they asked, we didn’t make a big deal of it. No party. No big social-media announcement. We’re expecting baby No. 2 this winter and will keep our baby’s sex-reveal low-key again.
Here’s my rationale, and the reason I’m a curmudgeon on the topic: My kids will live their whole lives in a world defined by gender binaries, so do we really have to start enforcing those stereotypes on a fetus?
In case you’ve been hiding under a rock or avoiding social media, here’s the deal. Depending on how it’s organized, the gender reveal can be a surprise for everyone attending (including the expecting parents) or, the parents already know what they’re having, but want to spread the news in a creative way to family and friends. Most gender-reveal parties involve a cake, or cupcakes, and a trusted friend or family member in possession of the results from the 20-week ultrasound. He or she bakes a cake filled with icing, and pink icing inside means girl. Blue means boy. Invite your guests, cut the cake, cheer and post the results across your social feeds. Yes, gender-reveal parties are a fun chance for friends and family to get excited about baby’s arrival. And, yes, I like any excuse for cake as much as the next pregnant lady. (Maybe even a little bit more. I really like cake. Especially cake filled with additional icing.)
But a few clicks down a Pinterest wormhole remind me why I’m anti-gender reveal. There are so many problematic ideas for themes. Among them: “Guns or Glitter,” “Rifles or Ruffles,” “Touchdowns or Tutus,” “Footballs or Pompoms,” Lures (as in fishing) or Lace,“Team Blue or Pink, What Do You Think?” … You get the idea. A couple parents-to-be in the U.S. even used explosives to blast pink or blue chalk into the air and hired a professional photographer to capture the event. (It was a boy, in case you were wondering.)
Besides the disturbing practice of equating masculinity with firearms, what if our little boy hates football and wants to join the cheer team instead? Should I assume our little girl would be too restricted by her lacy clothing to enjoy a day of fishing?
If you want to get into semantics, the parties are actually sex-reveal parties. Sex is based on genitals, male or female, which is all you can see from an ultrasound. Gender is the construct, the societal act of what it means to be male or female. It develops over time.
Sex-reveal parties also fail to account for intersex babies. There’s a debate over just how common intersex births are, but it’s safe to say that not all anatomy fits neatly into the male or female category. And sometimes, your gender identity has nothing to do with the anatomy you were born with. As babies become children and teens, some will identify as transgender. This topic is becoming discussed more frequently, and with much debate, in my province of Alberta, where the NDP government is ensuring transgender kids and teens will be able to use the washroom of their choice in public schools this fall.
Scrolling through the impressively creative and often over-the-top gender reveals I’ve seen online, it’s hard not to think that the more elaborate sex-reveal ideas have less to do with celebrating with family and friends, and more to do with a splashy spectacle made for social-media affirmation and one-upmanship. The exploding chalk stunt gained more than 68,000 likes on Facebook at the time of writing, and more than 70,000 shares. It’s a crazy example, but such a popular and publicized sex reveal can put pressure on other parents-to-be to perform.
Don’t forget that an equally elaborate baby shower is usually expected just a few months after a sex-reveal party. That can add up to a lot of work—and money, too, for whomever’s organizing or covering party costs.
I’m not arguing against anyone’s right to announce their baby’s sex however they choose, especially if it involves cake. But gender is complicated. It’s much more nuanced than just blue or pink. Sex-reveal parties remove the nuance, which is why they’re not right for me, or my fetus.
Now excuse me, I need to go find some cake—preferably with green and yellow gender-neutral frosting.