Over the past ten years, pictures of couples cutting cakes to reveal blue or pink inside, popping confetti tubes, or even waiting for colored steam to come out of 18-wheeler trucks have become a popular addition to baby showers. While this seems harmless enough, gender reveal parties re-enforce a weird obsession with gender. Even the ways the gender of the baby is revealed have caused disastrous events.
The first thing to mention when talking about gender reveal parties is that they don’t actually reveal gender at all. What they reveal is the sex of the baby. Gender is socially constructed not biologically determined, so, parents cannot really reveal the gender of the baby, since it hasn’t interacted in society.
Gender reveals often happen at private parties and baby showers, but the videos are typically shared online, and some even go viral. This public display feeds into the unhealthy obsession with gender, and especially the expectations placed on children before they are born.
There are several videos where the fathers are visibly upset, and sometimes voice their disappointment, when pink cake/confetti/fireworks are revealed.
Aug. 5, 2020 on Reddit’s “Am I the A–Hole” forum, an expectant father detailed how he walked out of the gender reveal party when the sparklers they used turned pink instead of blue.
“I don’t know what came over me but all I felt at that moment was very bitter disappointment,” the father wrote. “To be honest, all I was hoping for for baby #2 is to be able to toss a ball around with him and coach little league. Or watch him go on Boy Scouts camping trips.”
The voters on the post decided overwhelmingly that the father was the a–hole. What the father wrote goes to show that people are anticipating what their child would be like in line with society’s construction of gender. What the father wants, what he feels like he can’t have with a second daughter, is all the things he expects little boys to be.
Besides perpetuating harmful gender stereotypes, gender reveals can be dangerous. On Sep. 6, the California Law Enforcement determined the El Dorado Fire in San Bernardino County was started by a “smoke generating pyrotechnic device, used during a gender reveal party.” The El Dorado fire has yet to cease and led to the death of a firefighter on Sep. 17.
Gender reveal parties may seem harmless enough, but popping a balloon full of colored powder and the spectacle, and obvious risk, of fireworks in dry areas make the events more sinister and the intentions more confusing.
If gender reveal parties can cause emotional harm and pose potential environmental risks, then why do people do them? The rise of these videos on social media, often tearful videos of happy, hugging couples garner lots of views, and even social media influencers make long gender reveal videos. It’s trendy, it’s performative, and it conforms to mainstream society in a way that makes it seem modern.