You know that fabulous song from The Sound of Music called "My Favorite Things?" I love that none of the things listed are that big a deal, but little things that make Maria happy. Some days, when I'm feeling cranky, I feel like I could put together a song of my least favorite things. Like Maria's list, mine would be full of little things: cars straddling two parking spots or people who insist I "need to give The Big Bang Theory another chance." Then there are gender reveal parties. Guys, I hate gender reveal parties. Ultimately, they're not really a big deal, but I really, really don't like them and I think my reasoning is solid.
I didn't hate them initially, to be honest. The first time I heard about a gender reveal party it was 2011 and I was pregnant with my first child. My class of high school students had just found out I was expecting, and they asked if I knew what I was having (I didn't). "You know what you should do?" said one girl. "My cousin had the results of her ultrasound given to a baker, and then they filled it with pink or blue frosting so she could cut the cake and everyone could find out together. You should do that."
"Oh that's cute," I said, and I meant it. Honestly, if that's where the concept had remained, I might still be down with it. (Indeed, even now, people casually gathering together to find out the sex of an unborn child in an interesting way doesn't inspire me to break into a boisterous and blustery rendition of "My Least Favorite Things.") But as time went on the idea of gender reveal parties spread and grew, and all of a sudden you've got party games and themed foods and hundreds of dollars of decorations and elaborately crafted cakes and professional photographers to capture every moment, it's suddenly a thing. As I sat back and saw the direction that thing was taking I, of course, developed an opinion (because I always have an opinion, people). So yeah, they rub me the wrong way, and here's why:
Honestly, this article could begin and end here because this is my major quibble. Gender is as gender does, you guys. Not to get all pedantic or anything, but what we're learning at a gender reveal is whether the baby has a penis or a vagina. That's the baby's sex though, admittedly, "sex reveal party" sounds like a very, very different kind of party. Like the kind of party you wouldn't invite your relatives to (I hope).
Genitalia isn't a telltale indicator of gender, because gender is really just an ill-defined collection of behaviors and characteristics that we've decided are "male" or "female" for no real reason other than "we've" decided they are. (This can also vary tremendously from culture to culture or even subculture to subculture.) So, right off the bat, I'm uncomfortable with this whole concept.
For starters, one's genitalia has nothing to do with their interests, so this is sort of silly. For another, what's with that "or?" What if a girl wants to wear a tie and a tutu? What if a boy wants a bedazzled rifle? It just strikes me that this isn't a party about what your child is going to be, but about how you intend to treat and act towards your child based on nothing more than a picture of their developing sex organs.
Because I'm from Connecticut and damn it I will fake a smile because my people are polite AF.
Listen, I know this is something you are doing because you love your child and you're excited about being their parent. I recognize that, and I don't think you're some sort of oppressive, closed-minded monster. I just disagree with you. So I'm not going to rant at you and your guests like Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty or show up in a shirt that says "GENDER IS A CONSTRUCT! YOU'RE ALL SHEEP! DEATH TO THE PATRIARCHY!" I'm going to eat the spinach dip and earnestly coo over your belly and mingle just like everyone else. I'm not saying my thoughts about gender are going to be completely unvoiced throughout the course of the afternoon (because God knows there's always that one uncle who tests my limits on purpose), but I'll be as tactful as possible.
So much about gender reveal parties seem like they were conceived to look good in artfully snapped pictures to be shared on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, where many people likely get their ideas for their own parties. It's like a bizarre ouroboros with prettily arranged cupcakes and mason jars.
A lot of this will fall under the previous category of stereotypes and assumptions ("It's a boy? Yay! Time to Sign him up for football!") but occasionally you're going to get into some really icky territory like the "joking-but-not-really" preference for a son to "carry on the family name" or the hilarious ribbing that a baby girl is going to spend all of her father's money so he'd better watch out.
(See, this is why I don't like faking that smile, guys.)
All too often, I've heard this little dandy:
"It's a girl! Daddy! Get out the shotgun!"
Ha. Right, because before she's even born we should start not only sexualizing her but sending the message that she has no control over her own body or choices! Yay!
You never really know how you're going to react to such big news. What if you're disappointed, or nervous, or it hits you in ways you didn't expect? What if you're thrilled but your partner isn't? What if you're a guest who is somehow invested in the outcome and the parents are offended by your unmistakable frown?
Personally, I haven't experienced gender disappointment, but it's definitely a thing and I feel like that could ruin the party way worse than my aforementioned "Death to the Patriarchy" shirt.
OMG, can we figure out the protocol on this one? Do I bring something? Do I bring a little something? Like, sometimes you're told not to bring anything, but then you're the only one who shows up empty-handed and it's so awkward and you feel like a jerk.
There always seems to be a fondant cake and frosting figures in prominently. It's just a lot of sugar is what I'm saying.
I don't mean to be a spoil-sport or whiny but omg I don't want to cast my vote or pop balloons or take a quiz. I want to sit and talk to other adults while eating finger foods from Costco. Then maybe I'll sit outside and shake my fist at children so they get off my lawn.
Boy. Girl. People are going to clap and be excited one way or the other, right? Paired with the more problematic (as I see them) aspects of this whole enterprise makes me think, like, if you really want to have some kind of social gathering, can't we just have a "Hooray For Baby!" party instead? Or better yet, just go out for brunch? Surely the money spent on that big pretty chalk board you're only going to use once would be better spent on a delicious omelette.
This also plays into my general gripe of "Why does everything have to be a thing?" The last decade or so has become so performative, it seems and now you can't just, say, ask a friend to be a bridesmaid. You need to run to the craft store to sculpt her a color-coordinated garden gnome that looks like her holding a hand-carved box containing a scrapbook of your friendship. I feel like gender reveal parties play into that whole over-the-top trend I've been noticing more lately.
(And if you're crafty and over the top, or you really like parties, by all means please be my guest. These are reasons I hate gender reveal parties.)
Guys, I don't want to feel all preachy and surly and mildly disdainful. Granted, I usually feel all those things, but I don't want to feel them at a party.
Like I've said, I don't think gender parties are irrevocably hurting anyone and I'm not going to be a jerk about how you choose to celebrate anything, but I can't forget all the reasons I find them objectionable and I've yet to be convinced otherwise with a good counter argument. So here I sit, all bummed out at the crossroads of feminism and good manners. Under normal circumstances I'll just kind of sit there inoffensively, but if pushed? I'm sorry, but I'm going to be your (politely) ranting friend telling your sexist cousin that ,"Actually, the history of why boys where blue and girls wear pink is interesting and relatively recent."
If you really want a gender reveal party, go ahead! That's your right and I'll be happy to attend to celebrate something you perceive as an important milestone. However, and for all of the above reasons (and more), they just really aren't my thing.