Let’s dispose of the gender reveal party

WTFrame Comics

Yet another “gender reveal party” explosion has caused massive damage to the surrounding area. Not for the first or even second time – and while none have died in this fire yet, others have in similar incidents.

As a current California resident, this makes me absolutely livid – having been sheltering in place for months due to SARS-CoV-2 and then not even being able to go hiking because of wildfires and terrible air quality, people setting fires for this nonsense makes me absolutely incensed (pun partly intended).

Swathes of the state are already on fire and some pieces of human garbage decide that what’s between their baby’s legs is so important they must tell all their friends with a staged-for-instagram display. It’s messed up on several levels, so let’s look at some.

You keep using that word…

It doesn’t mean what you think it means. Gender is not a synonym for sex, for a start. Back to that in a bit.

Why are you so focused on “gender”? With a baby, you’re not even talking about gender anyway. Kids don’t have (or specifically, express) gender. Not til they’re about 5 – it’s largely projection from adults before that. Research shows our stereotyping of children by gender begins early. A messy sense of boxed-in identity that is forced on them because of cultural ideas about genitals and sexism.

What is gender?” is a complicated, messy question that philosophers and sociologists have grappled with for a long time. Europe and the US are for the most part binary gendered societies; we grow up with the expectation that everyone falls into one of two boxes (boy/girl, man/woman) and that generally we can tell who is in which box just by looking and maybe briefly talking. In this way, gender indicates sex* – what it’s really telling us is “What’s in their pants?

A comic about gender and clothing by webcomicname.com making the point that gender is often a signifier of what genitals we have

Sometimes, people use sex to indicate gender instead; emphasising breasts, hair, muscles or other secondary characteristics, if perhaps we don’t generally otherwise conform to others’ ideas of what’s “masculine” or “feminine” . Sometimes we tell other people what our gender is, sometimes others decide it for us. Sometimes we will correct them if they’re wrong.

Gender is a performance – a dance of behaviours, attitudes, signals and more given off by people to tell others around them something about who they are. Cultural ideas about what masculinity and femininity look like vary, and not all cultures even have a binary gender system. But all this is a huge topic that can become many posts, so let’s continue.

Cis parents, in general, are very uncomfortable acknowledging that there could be anything non-cis about their children at all—that pink or blue isn’t the be-all and end-all of gendered human experience and the very real harms that can come from pretending that this is the case.

Rae Gray (Bitch Media)

Gender is an indicator of sex. It’s not the same thing. *But sex is also more complicated than genitals alone – so it’s not accurate to call them “sex reveal parties” either – “genital reveal party” seems most accurate. How messed up is that??

No it’s not “harmless”

Even if you do something non-explodey like a cake.

It is harmful to intersex people, who are often operated on without their consent to make them fit into one of two boxes because of people’s obsession with a clear binary and ensuring they stick to it. Ensuring their children stick to it. Surgery they didn’t need that can harm them for life. Even without that, years of stigmatisation of their perfectly normal body.

Trans kids (and adults) are also impacted. Parents deciding that the observed sex (usually based on genitals alone) must mean that a whole host of personality traits will be forthcoming/avoided is a solid foundation underneath failing to accept, love, comfort, support and encourage any child who feels the gender others think they have is wrong for them.

Putting less emphasis on it helps all of us, cis, trans and nonbinary alike, to be free to perform the gender that makes them comfortable. Cis girls (like young me!) don’t need to be told they’re too “boyish” for liking to wear shorts, get muddy and play with dinosaurs and cars instead of pink things with sparkles and princesses. Cis boys shouldn’t be told those things aren’t for them.

Trans kids don’t need the weight of assumption about their gender and life choices hanging on the thread of imagination tied to their genitals either.

None of us do.

by GenNeu Toys, via Let Toys Be Toys

It harms all of us.

Literally all this nonsense boils down to ‘Penis or vagina*?‘ and really, who cares? The only people that should matter to is the child themselves, parents who have to take care of them while young, future sexual partners, and personal doctors. Everyone else doesn’t need to know and focusing down on it as if it’s some major determinant of personality is just sad.

A boy has a something, and a girl has a nothing. A boy has a gun, and a girl has a hole. A boy does, and a girl is done to. A boy is an active actor with useful equipment, and a girl is a void with embellishments. It would sound so tiresomely gender studies 101 if these weren’t actual people having actual children

Jessica Winter (Slate)

[*or vulva. It’s still a bug bear of mine that people say one and mean the other (usually vagina to refer to all external ‘female genitalia’ and that really gets on my nerves. ‘Cause it ain’t.]

Some wonder if it’s a case of expanding the “female-only” tradition of baby showers (another US-American practice they can keep or preferably trash as well) and using the big bangs to bring in men – men with some severe issues around gender roles and toxic masculinity (huh I wonder where from)…

Toxic masculinity is men thinking they need to explode something because simply enjoying a baby party is for sissies,” said Karvunidis, whose original gender bash in 2008 involved cake


So let’s just stop it now? You had your weird fun. People got hurt. Even the person who may have started the trend wants nothing more to do with it.

It certainly isn’t the full scope of this conversation to stop here; why do parents do this? Why is binary gender so important to them? What happens when children – or any people – fail to conform to or blur those boundaries?

Kids can enjoy and do anything, whatever is in their pants. That’s how it should be anyway.

More on this

Gender reveal parties are the WORST

(My links, tweets & images collection)

Since Writing


2 thoughts on “Let’s dispose of the gender reveal party

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