Gender reveal parties have become less about celebrating the birth of a child and more about garnering attention on social media. Over-the-top gender reveal parties have also caused extensive property and personal damage, not to mention perpetrating outdated beliefs about sex and gender. With even the inventor of the gender reveal party, Jenna Karvunidis, calling for an end to these events, it’s high time we gave up on this trend and shifted back to simple baby showers.
Gender reveal parties are a type of celebration where expecting parents or their friends organize an event to reveal the sex of their unborn child. Typically, the party involves some sort of hidden element with blue or pink coloring, such as cakes or piñatas, that indicate whether the child will be a boy or a girl. Social media “sharenting,” where parents post obsessively about their children in hopes of gaining viral attention, has caused these events to balloon to increasingly dangerous proportions in the hopes of gaining more likes and shares.
Jenna Karvunidis, the “inventor” of the gender reveal party, had no idea that she was creating a viral trend when she posted about her party on her blog High Gloss and Sauce and a parenting forum in July 2008. For the Karvunidis family, the party was a simple affair where they cut into a cake with pink icing to reveal that they were having a baby girl. The post went viral, and a local Chicago magazine covered the party. Gradually, gender reveal parties grew into a national phenomena.
However, Karvunidis expressed her changing views in a 2019 Facebook post, where she wrote that gender reveal parties have “exploded into crazy” and created “more emphasis on gender than has ever been necessary for a baby.” In 2020, Karvunidis called for an end to gender reveal parties in an article with the New York Daily News, where she said the parties were “ridiculous” and “harmful to transgender and nonbinary people and anybody on the gender spectrum.”
Gender reveal parties (which actually reveal a baby’s biological sex, not gender), enforce cultural views of gender as biologically determined and binary. Blue for a boy and pink for a girl create the notion that gender is simply male and female, completely ignoring intersex people, whose chromosomal and genetic makeup fall between male and female. The use of the term “gender” rather than “sex” or “anatomy” conflates sex and gender, therefore ignoring the role of society in constructing gender roles. Lastly, an over-the-top event could potentially invalidate the later identification of that child as a gender or sex different than the one they were assigned at birth.
Harmful cultural effects aside, the physical destruction of gender reveal parties has been well-documented. For instance, a Sept. 12, 2020 article from The Guardian titled, “Gender reveal parties are harmful in so many ways – why do we treat them as quirky?” covers how gender reveal parties burned 47,000 acres and caused $8 million worth of damage in Arizona in 2017, caused several explosions in 2019 in Wisconsin and Iowa and destroyed over 13,000 acres of forest this year in California so far. The destruction of gender reveal parties also goes beyond property damage. For example, a gender reveal party in 2019 killed a 56-year-old woman named Pamela Kreimeyer in Iowa when a piece from a homemade explosive struck her in the head.
Is revealing a baby’s sex worth damaging the property and psyche of the people around you? Instead of engaging in this harmful trend, take a step back and have a (safe) baby shower instead. It leaves out the harmful practices associated with gender reveal parties and, if you throw it right, doesn’t burn down any forests. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the birth of a child, but let’s keep the event joyful rather than destructive.