Why Gender Reveal Parties Are Harmful

If you live in America you have likely heard of the “Gender Reveal Party” trend. I’m all for a good party, but gender and sexuality research show that these parties do much more harm than good. They fuel problematic cultural norms and reinforce our structure of the gender binary.

Before we continue let’s clear up some definitions. 

Sex is biologically defined through factors such as genitals, hormones, and chromosomes (Ex: Female)

Gender is culturally defined; the expression of one’s sex. (Ex: Girl, Woman)

People use these terms interchangeably, but they describe different attributes of the person. While these parties are labeled “gender” reveal, they are truly a sex/genital reveal. 

It is important to understand that gender does not always align with our assigned sex at birth, nor is there a correct way to portray one’s gender. So, representing a baby’s sex through stereotypical attributes of the commonly associated gender is unwarranted.

In addition, some human beings are born with biological traits that do not fit the mold of female or male. For example, they might have male chromosomes, but female genitals or genitals that are ambiguous. These human beings are deemed intersex, and don’t fit into the gender binary our society has upheld. 

On the surface gender reveal parties are an innocent way to celebrate the sex of a baby, but when you look through the spectacle, the confined social reality of gender is exposed. 

Jenna Myers Karvunidis, a “mommy blogger”, is credited with starting the trend back in 2008. She announced the sex of her baby at a party by cutting into a cake with pink filling. 

The party got noticed by popular magazines and soon the trend spread across the nation. Since then, gender reveal parties have evolved into a wide variety of celebrations. 

The cake trend introduced by Karvunidis is still common, but instead of just a blue or pink filling, stereotypical attributes of the assigned gender are often seen decorating the cake. For example, a simple search on Pinterest will find cakes sporting “Guns or Glitter?”, “Tutus or Touchdowns?”, “Buck or Doe?”. 

Gender reveal cakes are a strange social phenomenon in itself, but some recent gender reveal parties have been ditching the cakes and displaying increasingly dangerous stunts to announce a baby’s sex. 

Some have involved car exhaust, wild animals, pipe bombs, and even fireworks. A few have infamously caused horrific fires along the West coast of the United States like the spectacle that sparked a wildfire in California They can be both physically and ideologically dangerous. 

Instead of reflecting natural ideals, these parties reflect on a particular “selection” of reality. People construct their versions of reality based on the language that is in use, so the language describing gender impacts what we perceive to be real.

As my Communication textbook, Rhetoric in Civic Life, says, “Ideology becomes most powerful when humans forget it is socially constructed and give it the status of objective reality.” 

Using the terms blue and pink constrains our imagination of gender, as we squeeze the baby’s future into a predetermined box. It limits our perception of who this child will grow up to be.

Girls are not naturally linked to the color pink, nor boys with blue, but parties and other gendered norms like this, lead us to think that these associations are intrinsic. 

Even Karvunidis, the creator of the trend, is now against them as she came to learn more about gender and sexuality. 

In a recent Facebook post she states, “…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”. 

Love Schoolcraft, a woman in Akron, Ohio, redefined a typical gender reveal party and threw her 17 year old transgender son one to celebrate and acknowledge his non-binary identity. 

They had a big box that revealed balloons, but instead of pink or blue balloons popping out, the white, yellow, purple, and black colors of the nonbinary flag came out. 

Her son, Grey Schoolcraft, jumped out with the balloons proudly announcing to the world that he is non-binary and uses he/him pronouns. 

In addition, the family resists the traditional choice of just pink or blue for their cake, as they sported the colors of the transgender pride flag, pink, blue and white. 

His mother posted pictures of their party on Facebook, saying “We wanted to announce that we got it wrong 17 years ago when we told the world we were having a little girl, and named that child McKenzie. So, we’d like to introduce you to our SON: Grey”. 

Instead of perpetuating this harmful notion of the gender binary, this family challenged the hegemonic structure. Other families have also opted for more appropriate party ideas. Some of these include themes like pregnancy announcements, name reveals, zodiac reveals, or birthstone reveals! 

I love it! Go have a fun party, but don’t isolate sex and gender as the most important part of the unborn child. 

Here are some links if you want to learn more!

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/gender-identity/sex-gender-identity 

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/oct/20/why-the-mother-who-started-gender-reveal-parties-regrets-them 

https://medium.com/family-matters-2/why-a-parenting-group-banned-the-term-gender-reveal-party-53a5b4f25db9 

https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/16/us/gender-reveal-party-transgender-son-trnd/index.html 

https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-life/alternatives-to-gender-reveal-parties/