The cake is cut, the blue or pink smoke bombs are released into the air, confetti-filled balloons are popped and the mountains are aflame. These are just some of the various activities that take place at gender reveal celebrations held numerous times each year.
Since gender reveals were first documented in 2008, they have gained popularity across the globe. Typically, blue or pink decorations signal that the happy couple is expecting a boy or a girl. However, as each gender reveal party goes by, couples tend to up the ante with a new show stopping, tacky and albeit dangerous idea to announce the sex of their baby.
Not only are these parties a physical danger to the surroundings and guests in attendance, but they may also cause mental harm to the babies as they grow up with the expectations of gender conformity placed by these old-fashioned displays.
On Sept. 5, a gender reveal party in Yucaipa, near the San Bernardino mountains area, led to a wildfire that burned more than 14,000 acres so far. Evacuations led tens of thousands of residents to flee their homes for safety, while over 8,000 structures have been threatened by the raging fire.
Although this seems like a highly unusual accident, this isn’t the first time gender reveals have caused damage. Last November, a gender reveal stunt in Texas that involved a crop-duster plane led to a crash which caused minor injuries. Last year, a car burst into flames in Australia after a gender reveal involving blue smoke went horribly wrong.
Dangerous displays of gender reveals have to stop, not only to prevent future accidents, but to stop the expectations that are put on children to conform to genders for which they may not identify. Placing so much importance on gender also sets parents up for disappointment and may foster an unhealthy relationship with their child.
Over-the-top, desperately attention-seeking gender reveals can be seen plastered all over social media. From celebrities to your next-door neighbors, gender reveal parties seem to have an inherent competitive nature for who can create the most eye-catching surprise. In addition, they prolong the antiquated views associated with the concept of gender binary.
Jenna Karvunidis, the mother who hosted the first gender reveal party back in 2008, has since expressed her frustration over the traction that they have gained in recent years.
“Stop having these stupid parties,” Karvunidis said in a recent Facebook post. “No one cares but you.”
While gender reveals may seem strictly like fun and games to some, the gender norms it plays into as children reach adolescence aren’t as harmless as they seem. Research has shown that gender identity and roles may have a negative effect on a child’s development.
In a study conducted by the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers found a common belief in the hegemonic myth across different cultures. This myth perpetuates the belief that girls are inherently vulnerable while boys are inherently strong and independent. It also contributes to standards pertaining to women’s sexuality and even more harmful lasting effects in some cultures such as child marriage and early pregnancy.
Despite the joy depicted at these celebrations, parents are setting up standards for how their child should act and think. For kids who won’t identify with the concepts of masculinity or femininity, their parents are placing them in a gendered box before they’re born. That’s not the way to raise a child with love and acceptance.
Many Twitter users have also chimed in to express their concern with this recent gender reveal trend and the harmful aspects they may play in society’s beliefs about gender roles.
Instead of blowing up things for a gender reveal party, the parents to be should hand out wallets. If there’s a dollar inside, it’s a boy, if there’s 72 cents, it’s a girl— Professor Sarah Parcak (@indyfromspace) September 7, 2020
A gender reveal party where you reveal all of the harmful things you learned about gender roles and norms and vow not to pass them onto the next generation.— Akilah Green (@akilahgreen) September 7, 2020
Despite the criticism, expecting parents can still host small parties; although they should scale back on the explosive party tricks and gender-conforming announcements. It’s important to create a more accepting and safe celebration for everyone involved.
Parents should celebrate their baby in ways that don’t harm anyone or their future child’s expectations for how they can express themselves. They can still bake cakes or even buy balloons, but this time, forego the blue or pink decorations.