Editorial: Gender reveal parties are harmful

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A gender reveal party caused the El Dorado Fire in Oak Glen near Yucaipa on Sept. 5 when a smoke machine used during the reveal ignited some grass. (Image courtesy of Pixabay)

By The Viewpoints Editorial Board

By now, the bulk of the Western world has experienced gender reveal parties — the booming trend of pink and blue social media posts, confetti and even explosions. 

The trend is not a long standing tradition followed by past generations. It began with Jenna Karvundis in 2008, when, after multiple miscarriages, she made it far enough in her pregnancy to discover the sex of the fetus — a very personal milestone for her and her family.

 She invited loved ones over to share the news with a cake of the associated color for the sex of the baby inside. 

The trend snowballed as celebrities and mommy bloggers rushed to top each other’s pink and blue displays. But the stunts at these parties have become increasingly dangerous, with at least one confirmed kill after an Iowa woman was struck by a piece of debris after a gender reveal pipe bomb went off. It was a boy, by the way. 

Another incident resulted in a plane crash after the aircraft stalled while dumping 350 gallons of pink water on a field. Fortunately, there were no casualties.

And while the infamous El Dorado Fire, sparked by a gender reveal prop in Oak Glen, is still fresh in our collective memory, let the record show that this is the second gender reveal wildfire. So gender reveals have, in effect, caused more property damage than all the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 combined.

It is also important to note that gender reveal parties are not actually celebrating gender reveals. 

“Sex is a label — male or female — that you’re assigned by a doctor at birth based on the genitals you’re born with and the chromosomes you have,” Planned Parenthood’s website states. “Gender is much more complex: It’s a social and legal status, and a set of expectations from society, about behaviors, characteristics, and thoughts.”

Sex, not gender, is what is actually on one’s birth certificate and what is revealed when a fetus is mature enough.

Gender reveal parties, then, are actually sex reveal parties. This difference is a key component to understanding how cultural fads based on gender, or sex, are harmful on many levels.

The LGBTQ+ community’s discourse surrounding gender reveals is nothing to scoff about. Many of these gender reveals, such as wrestling an alligator to say “it’s a boy,” reinforce harmful gender roles. This can make it difficult for transgender, nonbinary or gender nonconforming children to come out when they are older and discover they do not fit the pink and blue boxes they have been assigned without their input.

Sex itself is also complex due to the countless variables that can lead to a person being born outside the male and female binary. This restrictive categorization does not allow for the recognition of intersex people. 

The doctor and parents of intersex children decide on the infant’s sex. Intersex babies are often prescribed hormones and undergo surgeries to reflect the parents’preferred sex. This is considered a human rights violation since a baby cannot consent to genital reconstructive surgery.

Imposing gender roles on infants and placing immense importance on something as fluid as gender with grandiose and explosive gestures causes more harm than anyone thought possible. It is harmful to trangender, nonbinary, intersex and many people whose genders fall outside the “M” and “F” boxes, and it is harmful to the environment — at least in the more explosive cases.

It is time to put away the pink and blue smoke kits and it is time to think up more safe and inclusive ways to welcome children into the world.

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