Gender reveal parties have inarguably become one of the biggest trends among parents-to-be in the past few years. The splashy celebrations have pretty much fuelled an entire industry, spawning reveal party ideas from coating the underside of your hair in dye to literally shooting an arrow into a paint-filled balloon like you’re freakin’ Katniss Everdeen. Except for the fact that Katniss would never—and neither should we.
On October 26, a woman in Iowa was killed after being struck by debris from an explosion at one such gender reveal party. While attempting to create a contraption that would spurt blue or pink-coloured powder into the air, thus revealing the sex of their child, the family of the now-deceased woman, identified as 56-year-old Pamela Kreimeyer, inadvertently created a homemade pipe bomb. Once lit, the device exploded, with debris hitting Kreimeyer in the head. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Kreimeyer’s death is incredibly tragic. But it’s only the latest in gender reveal mishaps. And with it, I think it’s time to agree: Gender reveal parties should 100% not be a thing, because they’ve gone way too far.
Gender reveal parties dictate someone’s gender
While gender reveal parties might seem like a cute, fun, harmless idea, they’re actually quite problematic. The biggest issue with these types of events is the fact that they try to succinctly place gender into two little (usually confetti-filled) binary boxes: male or female, thus conflating the two very different identities—gender and sex—as one and the same. But, as we know, genitalia doesn’t dictate gender. As Marie Claire writer Diane Stopyra so clearly put it: “Gender-reveal parties don’t actually reveal gender—they reveal anatomy.” The fact remains that gender identity is fluid and can change over time, and many people fall outside of this prescribed (and seriously limiting) binary. And as Good Housekeeping writer Rebecca Christie noted in a July article, these parties can be harmful to the actual child being celebrated—because by virtue of their dependency on the binary, they (publicly and vocally) imply that anything outside of either or is wrong or doesn’t fit in.
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And that’s 100% not correct and 100% doesn’t fly.Which is something that the woman who actually created the modern gender reveal party concept has come to realize herself. According to an October article in The Guardian, over 10 years after blogger Jenna Myers Karvunidis threw her own gender reveal celebration for family and friends, she admits that she has “major mixed feelings” about igniting the trend. Especially since her daughter Bianca, the OG gender reveal bb, has educated her mom on gender politics, and enlightened her on the fact that these parties can be harmful to trans and non-binary communities. While Karvunidis’s daughter uses she/her pronouns and “considers herself a girl,” she’s “firmly rejected the idea that girls should dress or act a certain way and questions preconceived ideas about what gender means,” according to The Guardian. “Bianca tells me there are more than two genders and many sexualities,” Karvunidis tells the outlet. “I hadn’t considered all this before.”
Gender reveal parties are a lot, in general
Aside from the potentially harmful implications of assigning a gender to your baby before they’re even born, these gender reveals have just gotten out of hand. Like seriously out of hand. While we’re not trying to harp on people for being excited about their little bundle of joy—seriously, go ahead, we’re thrilled for you!—recently, the way people are choosing to share their news has just gotten so extra. See: above arrow reference.
The latest bonkers reveal? Actress Shay Mitchell’s July YouTube video to announce the sex of her recently born daughter. In the vid, Mitchell and BF Matte Babel watch as two power rangers—decked out in pink and blue—wrestle and fight to see which ranger, and by extension gender, comes out on top. It’s…so much. At one point the fighting rangers fall into the couple’s pool and I kid you not, I thought one of them was going to drown. It went on for *far* too long, so much so that even Babel was visibly exasperated, wanting the whole process to hurry up.
And aside from being entirely taxing to watch, these reveals can also be straight up animal abuse. In March 2018, a Louisiana family shared a video of their recent gender reveal. In the video, which has 11 million views, a man is shown literally wrestling an alligator, before prying open its jaws and throwing a watermelon filled with jello into its mouth. The alligator chomps on the fruit to reveal blue chunks of watermelon…so I guess we can assume the child is a boy. But seriously? That poor alligator. Are alligators even allowed to eat jello? The vid ends with the alligator looking pretty upset, heading towards a kid who is rolling around on the ground. Can the gator just live his swamp life in peace?!
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And now these parties are literally killing people
If the expense, and potential for animal cruelty, isn’t enough to deter parents-to-be from embracing gender reveals, the death of Kreimeyer should. Because folks, people are now actually being killed by these over-the-top events. We’ve now gotten to the point where people are manufacturing their own dangerous contraptions. And for what? So that they can one up other reveals and go viral on social media? Seems like a pretty low pay-off for me.
If your baby gender reveal involves fire or mechanical components in any form, let me give you some advice how to do it: don’t.
— Bloody Mary (@knoxdiver) October 29, 2019
And not only are they harming people, but the environment as well. In April 2017, a gender reveal party in Arizona went horribly awry when, after shooting at the blue target (to indicate a boy, eye roll), the powder ignited the brush around the reveal area, starting what would become the Sawmill Fire. Per CNN, the fire burned 46,991 acres owned by the state of Arizona, federal agencies and private landowners and reportedly caused $8 million in damage…
Our planet is already burning without the added gender reveal-caused wildfires, people!
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But are we really surprised that as a society we’ve taken this trend to the extreme? Not really. We’re a culture of excess. We love to push the limits. And with the prevalence of social media, it’s easier than ever to feel the need to join in or one up those around us. It’s all fun and games until it’s really, really not. And TBH, gender reveals are really not that fun anymore.