Gender-reveal parties have always kinda bugged me. Maybe it’s because they seem unnecessarily attention-seeking while also being staggeringly irrelevant (do you really care that much about anything but having a healthy baby?). But, I didn’t think that hard about why they really bugged me until I read this smart article from Slate’s features editor, Jessica Winter. Winter nails it. Here is my very favorite paragraph (of all time?):
“A gender-reveal party might at least take on a sheen of medical accuracy if it were called a “sex-reveal party,” with the added bonus that it would also sound more like a fun orgy. But I doubt it’s a total accident that “gender-reveal” collapses the discrete concepts of sex and gender into one big face-mash of tasty cake. In fact, the gender-reveal phenomenon pulls off a rousing counter-progressive two-for-one: weapons-grade reinforcement of oppressive gender norms (sorry, feminists!) and blunt-force refusal of the idea that sex assigned at birth does not necessarily equate with gender identity (sorry, trans-rights movement!).”
Winter explains that babies lack the equipment (or desire) to perform gender, and they can thus be a source of gender discomfort for the adults around them. This is why we do things like call them “little man,” put hairbows on bald little girls even though it’s got to be painfully pulling the three hairs they have, and apologize profusely if we realize we’ve called a baby (who is probably androgynous-looking and who absolutely doesn’t care about pronouns) by the wrong pronoun.
“It would sound so tiresomely gender studies 101 if these weren’t actual people having actual children right here on my Pinterest boards in 2016,” Winter writes.
Perhaps more important is to slow down and think about what gets elided as we’re so caught up talking about gender.
“A gender reveal will tell a future baby’s loved ones precisely nothing about what is actually important about her first months and years on Earth: her temperament, her response to food, the ease with which she sleeps and self-soothes and explores her expanding world. “