Why I Condemn Gender Reveal Parties, and Why You Should Too
By Eva Mandelbaum
Gender reveal parties have been a trendy way to celebrate and reveal the sex of an expectant mother’s baby ever since blogger Jenna Karvunidis created and popularized the concept in 2008. At these celebrations, expectant parents have the gender of their baby revealed through anything from a cake to an explosion of blue or pink. Some have taken it to the extreme of having a live alligator reveal the baby’s gender! The concept of gender reveal parties reaffirms society’s gender binarism (the belief that there are only two distinct genders), and stereotypes related to gender. Many people are reckless when throwing these parties. Major wildfires ruining over tens of thousands of acres and many accidents (sometimes killing people) have ensued as a result of people’s negligence during gender reveals. Enough is enough. Gender reveal parties should no longer take place.
You have probably heard about the devastating fires destroying acres of land in California this past August and September, one of which being the El Dorado Fire. More than 21,000 acres of land were destroyed, and a firefighter was killed as a result of this fire. The cause of this fire and mass destruction of land? A gender reveal party. Believe it or not, this is not the first time a gender reveal party has led to disaster. In 2018, off-duty Border Patrol agent Dennis Dickey set up a dangerous device in an area of dry grass to reveal the gender of his baby. This gender reveal led to The Sawmill Fire in Arizona which scorched over 45,000 acres of land. Another gender reveal party in Florida led to a 10-acre Brevard County Fire. The list of destruction caused by gender reveal parties goes on and on.
Not only have gender reveal parties led to fires, but they have also cost the lives of many. Just recently (late February 2021) Christopher Pekny, 28, set off an explosive to reveal the sex of his baby, killing him and injuring his brothers, according to the New York Times. The same article reveals that Christopher’s older brother called what happened “the freakiest of freak accidents that I could ever imagine.” Is it truly a freak accident, though? Unfortunately, instances of gender reveal parties going terribly awry are more common than you may expect.
One gender reveal stunt led to a plane crash in Texas. Another led to a car bursting into flames in Australia. One instance of a gender reveal party leading to devastation is a gender reveal in Iowa killing a woman. A pipe bomb that was intended to reveal the sex of an expectant couple’s baby struck a party guest on the head, instantly killing her. If you ask me, finding out the gender of a baby is not worth dying for.
Gender reveal parties have additional dangers that aren’t related to fires or explosions. They reinforce the gender binary and exacerbate stereotypes about gender. Reinforcing the idea that blue means boys and that pink corresponds to girls (which is the whole point of the party: if there is pink, that means the baby is a girl, and if blue, that means the baby is a boy) does just this. In a BBC article, a mother of a transgender child shares her opinion on the subject. She says that gender reveal parties prevent children from "being celebrated in all their infinite diversity. They are made to feel shameful if they don't fit into this gendered stereotype." Making a big deal about the gender of a baby puts pressure on them to fill in the box of what is expected of them before they are even born. Maybe the baby will turn out to gravitate toward more feminine or masculine things as they grow up. Maybe they will be gender fluid. Throwing a grand celebration surrounding the idea of the gender of the baby will limit them as they grow up because of the assumption that they will undoubtedly identify in the way they are expected.
Even the person who invented the idea of gender reveal parties says she no longer loves what they have become! In a Facebook post from about two years ago, Jenna Karvunidis (creator of the gender reveal party concept) shares, “Who cares what gender the baby is? I did at the time because we didn't live in 2019 and didn't know what we know now - that assigning focus on gender at birth leaves out so much of their potential and talents that have nothing to do with what's between their legs. PLOT TWIST, the world's first gender-reveal party baby is a girl who wears suits!” The inventor of the idea said it herself: focusing on gender leaves so much out of the picture.
Still don’t get what the big deal is? Listen to a licensed psychologist! Margarida Rafael, a licensed psychologist shares her views on the topic in an article entitled “How Gender Reveal Parties Reinforce a Harmful Binary.” Rafael explains, "Gender reveal parties are one of the most socially acceptable ways to encourage a gender binary (even before the little human is out in the world). This is done by reinforcing the idea that blue (quite literally) means boy, and pink means a girl, and that gender is the same as the sex assigned at birth.”
Gender reveal parties can have a deeper meaning than you may realize. Although they occur before the baby is born, gender reveals create expectations for children as they begin to grow up, and set the tone for how they will be raised. Next time you consider throwing a “cowboys vs tiaras” party, or a party with a grand explosive device to reveal the sex of your baby, think about the consequences. Think about who you want to be as a parent. Realize that regardless of your baby’s gender, it will be your job as a parent to accept and love them for who they are.