The Underlying Issues with Gender Reveal Parties
Updated: Jul 19, 2022
Let me preface this by saying I love a good party and don’t think that those who throw gender reveal parties are doing so out of malice, but that this blog is simply meant to help educate on how some small aspects in our everyday lives can have consequences we may not have considered.
A gender reveal party is an event often hosted by soon-to-be parents to find out and share the sex of their baby. They are meant to be fun and exciting revelations, many unique approaches being tried and shared all over social media. From cakes to dunks to fireworks, each revelation seems to be more extravagant than the last. At first, mistakes would lead to small inconveniences, such as messes or unflattering reactions, but over the past few years, the risks have exponentially increased. Explosions causing property damages, a couple of wildfires burning over 50,000 acres, and even a few deaths have all been caused by gender reveal parties gone wrong.
But these accidents aren’t the only things that make them dangerous. Gender reveal parties are roughly misnamed; they don’t reveal the gender of the baby, but rather the genetic sex of the child. By confusing gender and sex, we not only hold back people from learning about the difference between the two but misleading stereotypes are also reaffirmed. Sex is one’s biological label, male or female, and is based on which biological organs and chromosomes a person possesses. Gender, on the other hand, is a label that creates social and cultural designations and is based on one’s gender identity (how one feels to present themselves). Though ‘sex reveal party’ doesn’t seem to have the same ring to it which may be due to the taboo against ‘sex’, by avoiding the term sex reveal, we too reinforce that taboo.
Furthermore, gender reveals often have two outcomes, boy or girl, which by calling it a ‘gender’ reveal enforces the idea that there are only two genders, creating the gender binary. In reality, as gender is based on a person’s preferential identity, there can be any number of genders. We must also be aware that 1-2% of all children are born intersex - their anatomy doesn’t fall into the sex labels of male or female. This minority is a group that often gets overlooked by the gender binary.
Another issue that arises from gender reveal parties is that gender norms may be supported through the reveals. For example, the most common reveals use a simple color theme - pink for girl, blue for boy. Though this may seem simple enough, it emphasizes the idea that these specific colors are associated with each gender and oftentimes, these color schemes are matched with other stereotypes for gender (e.g., blue streamers with sports, pink streamers with princesses).
Overall, gender reveal parties are supposed to be a good time and are usually done in positive spirits, but along with the physical dangers, they can sometimes unintentionally instill some stereotypes, and gender norms may not be considered. Here are some tips on how to throw a more inclusive party:
Don’t Call It a Gender Reveal: Maybe have a gender reveal later when and if your child would like to share their gender identity. Though it may sound a bit strange, it may open doors to conversations that otherwise may not have been had.
Use a Neutral Color Theme: Change it up a bit and use different colors for the reveal; it's not mandatory to stick with the blue and pink!
Focus the Party on Something Else: Have the party focus on revealing another aspect of the birth such as the expected due date or the name of the baby. There are many surprises to share when welcoming a new member to your family!
Don’t Go Too Over the Top: Remember the point is to have a good time and share an announcement; risking your and others’ safety is not worth an extreme reveal.
Amyn Ali was a student intern at Cypress Wellness Center currently completing their final semester in graduate school at USF, becoming nationally certified as a Health & Wellness Coach while pursuing a license in Mental Health Counseling. They have worked with a diverse range of clients and is interested in supporting people from all walks of life. As part of the South Asian LGBTQIA+ community, Amyn is a proud advocate of all identities, recognizing that each client has a unique story.