Gender Reveal Parties and Wildfires

Laney Justice

Gender reveal parties gained popularity in the United States and around the world when Jenna Karvunidis and her husband, after several miscarriages, finally found themselves about to be parents to a bouncing baby. It was a relatively normal party, with a cake sliced to reveal to the attendees either blue (for a boy) or pink (for a girl). Since then, the gender reveal party has become an industry. Books, blog posts, hashtags, and party planners are devoted to the event. One frightening new aspect of it, however, is the potential to cause injury through two wildfires, death, and car crashes. This phenomenon has gone so far that Jenna has begged people to stop, saying that she regrets her creation.

The child whose “gender was being revealed” has since shown Jenna the importance of allowing one’s child to explore their identity. Her daughter has short hair and prefers to wear suits and so-called “boy clothes.” Jenna says she did the party back in 2009 because we “didn’t know [back then what we know now in 2019] that assigning focus on gender at birth leaves out so much of their [child’s] potential and talents that have nothing to do with what’s between their legs.”

Particularly due to the growing presence and support of transgender rights, many people have scrutinized the existence of gender reveal parties. People are growing more comfortable with the idea that a baby’s gender doesn’t define who they are and who they will or can be. We’re coming to accept the fact that the colors assigned at a baby’s birth aren’t helpful or important. Gayatri Gopinath, the director of NYU’s Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, explains that this long-clung-to gender binary is facing examination “due to the increasing visibility and activism of/by trans and nonbinary folks and their allies.”

Alexandra Solomon, a psychologist and professor at Northwestern University, believes that gender reveal parties are a “last gasp” effort to hold onto traditional gender roles and ideas about the fluidity of gender expression and identity. “When you’re about to extinguish a behavior,” Solomon states, “there’s oftentimes a burst of the behavior before the behavior is fully extinguished, like one last-ditch effort”. (The “last gasp” concept can also be used in reference to the recent uprisings against police brutality and institutionalized, systematic racism vs “back the blue” and “blue/all lives matter”.) Usually, cisgender heterosexual couples are the ones doing gender reveal parties, and, more often than not, tend to be more conservative and right-leaning and are less inclined to recognize gender as a social and psychological construct than those who don’t.

Lastly, some experts believe that the rise of dangerous means to either get an answer in pink or blue is men feeling that they have to enforce their masculinity in everything they do. Men who are fragile in their masculinity may feel “emasculated” by attending a baby shower or gender reveal party. He would fix this by doing something “manly” i.e. explosions, guns, and fireworks. This is another example of the gender binary, enforced throughout such things as the gender reveal party, causing problems in the long-run.

Laura Wright is the founder of the field of Vegan Studies. She is Professor of English at Western Carolina University.