pregnancy

"What bothers me about gender reveal parties."

Another gender reveal party has gone horribly wrong, this time in South Australia.

Following on from the explosive gender reveal in Arizona that sparked off a $US8 million wildfire, 7News has released footage of a celebration at Meningie, south of Adelaide.

The happy couple had organised for a car burnout to release either pink or blue smoke. As the pink smoke billows out, an emotional voice can be heard saying, “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.” Suddenly there are cries of “Fire!” as flames start licking the car.

Authorities in SA say the stunt could have sparked a bushfire.

Watch the moment the trouble starts: 

Video via Seven News

Okay, so most gender reveal parties don’t lead to some kind of environmental catastrophe. Most just leave confetti lying around, or a whole lot of cake crumbs.

But why are gender reveal parties a thing now? Can we just talk about this a bit?

Sure, everyone loves an excuse for a party. And sure, there’s an industry behind this with product to sell – gender reveal cannons, balloons, piñatas, etc, etc. But there’s something that makes me feel slightly uncomfortable about them.

Jennifer Finney Boylan wrote a beautiful piece in The New York Times where she said these parties leave the “unfortunate impression” that gender is the most important thing to celebrate about that child. She added, as a late-transitioning transgender person, that gender reveals are sometimes “just plain wrong”.

That’s a point I hadn’t even thought of.

What bothers me about gender reveal parties is that it’s just one more way we’re putting emphasis on the gender of children when there’s so much emphasis on it already. When that cake is cut or that cannon is fired and we scream with excitement, we’re saying that we care, deeply, whether our child is a boy or a girl. We’re setting our child on a path, before we know anything about him or her.

The burst of blue or pink that causes those excited screams marks the beginning of a flood of blue or pink that lasts right through childhood. It will determine what colour clothes they wear, what toys they play with, what books they read, and so much more.

I have two primary school-aged kids, and I find that a lot of kids their age have really rigid ideas about gender. My son has grown his hair long, and there are kids who will absolutely refuse to accept that he could possibly be a boy, because only girls are supposed to have long hair. (Do these kids know nothing of the great hair metal bands? Poison? Bon Jovi?)

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When my son borrows a book from the library with a female lead character, other kids will say that it’s a “girl book”, not a “boy book”.

“There’s no such thing as a girl book or a boy book,” he tells them. But he shouldn’t have to.

We should be encouraging kids to feel free to be themselves and play with whatever toys they want and read as widely as possible. But we’re not doing that. And now, with gender reveal parties, this emphasis on a child’s gender is starting earlier than ever, before they’re even born.

Can we maybe find some other excuse for a party when there’s a baby on the way? Maybe we could start having “name reveal” parties. I can see it now. Parents could hire one of those planes that writes in the sky. Guests would stand around, looking upwards, full of anticipation.

“And the baby is going to be called… Abcde!” And everyone would cheer wildly. (Or not.)

Let’s find something else to celebrate about a baby. Not gender.

How do you feel about gender reveal parties? Tell us in the comments section below. 

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