By now you’ve most likely heard about the gender reveal that scorched more than 10,000 acres in Southern California’s San Bernardino County, causing more undue burden in a state that’s already dealing with a multitude of historic, catastrophic wildfires.
For some ungodly reason, this California couple thought it’d be a sound idea to use a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device near acres of dry wild grass so they could reveal to friends, family and strangers on the internet what kind of genitals their baby has.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time a massive fire has been caused by a gender reveal gone wrong. In 2017, 47,000-acres were burned in Arizona due to a gender reveal gone awry, causing 8 million dollars in damage.
So after news broke that this recent fire was caused by yet another gender reveal, many (appropriately) called the couple “dumbasses,” clowned on gender reveal parties and asked the inevitable question whenever this shit happens: “Can gender reveal parties stop being a thing now?”
The Rise of the Gender Reveal
The person who gets credited as the “creator” of gender reveals is Jenna Karvunidis, who back in 2008, simply baked a cake laden with pink icing, cut into it with her family and posted about the party on her blog — which then gained tons of traction.
Last year, Karvunidis told NPR that she just enjoys throwing parties, and at the time, wanted to celebrate her pregnancy with her family. But now that gender reveals had advanced to far more dangerous activities than cutting into a pink-frosted cake, Karvunidis announced that her views on gender, and gender parties had changed. In 2019, she penned a Facebook post expressing her mixed feelings, noting that the craze puts “more emphasis on gender than has ever been necessary for a baby,” and revealing that the world’s first gender reveal baby is now a girl who likes to wear suits.
“Who cares what gender the baby is? I did at the time because we didn’t live in 2019 and didn’t know what we know now — that assigning focus on gender at birth leaves out so much of their potential and talents that have nothing to do with what’s between their legs,” wrote Karvunidis.
While Karvunidis may have birthed the modern gender reveal, we can likely attribute the recent outlandish uptick in blue and pink smoke, balloons and bombs to the influencer culture and obsession with virality that has peaked in recent years.
Social media has undoubtedly pushed many parents to participate in some form of “sharenting” — in which parents overshare photos and videos of their children on the internet. It’s a semi-recent phenomenon that has raised concerns among experts who have warned of the potential dangers and psychological effects it can have on these children, most of whom are too young to consent to their image being plastered all over the internet.
“Family influencers,” one of the top subsets of influencer culture, make their money off this obsessive posting — sharing to their millions of Instagram followers and YouTube subscribers intimate life moments like the literal birth of their child, birthday parties, weddings and of course, gender reveals.
Like all of these documented life moments, the gender reveal parties are perfectly curated, aesthetically pleasing and, admittedly, enviable — featuring beautiful blue and pink balloon garlands, adorable baby-related decorations, delicious pastries and a crowd of friends and family members all celebrating you. How could you not be tempted to throw your own?
Additionally, it seems we’ve now managed to stretch these pivotal life events as far as we can. Bachelor and bachelorette parties are now week-long endeavors. Expectant parents head off on “Babymoons” — relaxed getaways where couples can savor their final childless moments. While soon-to-be mothers are gifted “push presents” from their partner or family — typically an expensive piece of jewelry, or if you’re Kylie Jenner, a $1.5 million Ferrari. The gender reveal has just become another valid excuse to post about whatever celebratory life event you’re embarking on — and one that is guaranteed to bring in loads of likes, comments and engagement.
Also guaranteed to bring in loads of engagement? A one-of-a-kind, death-defying gender reveal. The growing desire to have a unique gender reveal, one primed for virality has more than likely prompted parents to start firing rifles at explosives packed with colored chalk and using live alligators and goo-filled watermelons for the big reveal.
In 2019, one Iowa family made headlines for accidentally building a pipe bomb that unfortunately killed a party guest. In a statement released by the sheriff’s office, the family was “experimenting with different types of explosive material” in the hopes of recording a gender reveal that could be posted on social media for friends and family.
Surprise! It’s a … Cultural Trend that Exposes Troubling Views on Gender
Besides wreaking havoc on the ecosystem, prompting questions about animal cruelty and causing death, gender reveals have revealed some not-so-wholesome reactions. Some very concerning reactions many from soon-to-be fathers who discover they’re having a baby girl.
You can find tons of these “disappointed reaction” gender reveal videos on YouTube, many of which have gone viral. Like this one where the entire party audibly groans when discovering it’s a girl. Or this “hilarious reaction” of a dad finding out he’s having a fifth girl who then proceeds to raise his arms to the sky and fling himself in the pool.
And then there’s Celtics’ Gordon Hayward, who along with his wife and two daughters announced the gender of their baby on Instagram. When it’s revealed they’re having a girl, Hayward’s wife asks “Is daddy happy?” Hayward very unenthusiastically replies, “Daddy’s always happy.”
This then brings us to the most glaring problem imbedded within the very concept of a gender reveal. As Karvunidis mentioned in her Facebook post, these gender reveals put an insane amount of focus on gender — specifically two genders — even though we now know that gender is a large, vast, wonderful spectrum and there are many people who don’t identify as male or female.
These parties contribute to antiquated cultural ideas that your baby can only be one of two genders, making it only more difficult for those who identify as non-binary to feel that their is existence is validated.
According to the Trevor Project, transgender and non-binary youth who have their preferred gender pronouns respected by all or most of the people in their lives report having half the rate of attempted suicide than those who don’t have their pronouns respected. Unfortunately, only 1 in 5 transgender and non-binary youth report having their pronouns respected by all or most people in their lives. Additionally, we continue to see a horrific spike in fatal acts of violence perpetrated against the transgender community. According to the Human Rights Campaign, “2020 has already seen at least 26 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means.”
So while cutting into a blue-frosting filled cake may not seem as harmful as a 10,000-acre wildfire, it still ultimately contributes to outdated ideas of gender, which cause immeasurable harm to nonconforming folk. As Trevor Noah recently noted, “Gender reveal parties should only happen when the child is old enough to know their actual gender,” which sounds like a much better party to attend anyhow.
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