Columns / Discourse / April 4, 2018

Why gender reveal parties can be problematic

After I finished high school, I started to notice an influx of engagements, marriages and baby announcements as I scrolled through social media. So many of the people I graduated with are starting families and growing up, which is so strange to realize. As I continued to peep through Facebook and Instagram, I noticed how unnecessary the gender reveal process for newborns has always been. It hasn’t only taken over my newsfeed, but it is enforcing cisnormativity for babies before they are even out of the womb and it is problematic.

The notorious gender reveal has been a big part of the baby-having process. We are seeing videos of couples cutting into cakes to find a blue or pink center, couples popping balloons to find pink or blue confetti — and the list continues. The process has become competitive in the parenting field. Who has the most extravagant and aesthetically pleasing gender reveal? Some new parents are jumping out of planes to see what color the parachute is. But why does color have to correlate to the gender of a baby? Even the colors are placed into this binary, leading parents to only buy pink or blue items because of the anatomy on their child. What about the children that do not fit into that binary? The big reveal has led couples to throw huge parties celebrating with family and friends what the gender will be, but the color is not revealing gender, it is revealing anatomy. Gender is a completely different aspect that is not tied to genitalia.

There is nothing wrong with being excited to give birth to a child, but it is wrong to assign gender stereotypes right from the beginning. It can affect the way the parents look at their child and how they behave in the future. One of the common phrases is, “it is time to see, will it be a bouncing little he or a pretty little she” which assumes that a girl is to be more tame than an energetic boy. Without even meeting the newborn, the idea is generally placed into the heads of the parents. If the newborn is to act differently than the assigned stereotype, parents tend to place blame on themselves, asking “where did we go wrong” when it was the ideas put into their heads by society. It is important for parents to treat their child gender-neutrally so they can figure it out for themselves later in life.

When placing phrases on cakes for gender reveals, common phrases are “pistols or pearls”, “tutus or touchdowns” and even “bows or badges.” All of these are immediately saying that it is one or the other, allowing females to believe they can’t become a sheriff and wear a badge, or even allowed to try out football. It also places a stigma on male ballerinas and on men who wear femme outfits. The extreme divide on these cakes is only enforcing a “this or that” lifestyle. In this binary way of thinking, we are punishing an internal sense of self because of the anatomy. When everything is gendered in the binary, the expectations of the child also become extremely binary and absolute.

These parties are promoting a socially constructed gender binary that ignores the range of gender and sex possibilities. They are disregarding intersex, trans and non-binary folks completely and only enforcing a stigma upon them. It is extremely problematic to the newborns that are being celebrated.

 

Sadie Cheney

Tags:  feminism gender reveal lgbt

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