What's the Deal with Gender Reveal Parties?

by: Rebecca Desfosse
You’d have to be hiding under a rock not to have heard about the latest trend in pregnancy: gender reveal parties. Here’s what you need to know about this new cultural phenomenon.
Gender Reveal Party

Gender reveal parties have skyrocketed in popularity over the past few years. It goes like this: a doctor writes down their determination of the baby’s sex on a piece of paper without telling the expectant parents. The couple then takes that determination to a bakery with instructions to make pink or blue cake or cupcakes. Or, they enlist a friend to fill a box with pink or blue balloons. During the party, they cut the cake or open the box and the hidden color reveals to everyone whether the couple is expecting a boy or a girl. It’s suspenseful and fun, but is it necessary or even culturally appropriate?

Sex, Not Gender

It should be called a “sex-reveal party.” Though not as Pinterest-worthy, this name is much more accurate. Sex is based on anatomy, while a person’s gender identity may or may not match the sex they were assigned at birth. Gender identity develops over time, and isn’t something a doctor can determine on an ultrasound.

The idea of gender reveal parties contrasts with recent changes in our culture, including more rights for transgender people and those who are gender non-conforming. A party such as this, that emphasizes the importance of sex or gender, seems to go against that progress. This is especially with such outdated themes as “guns or glitter,” “touchdowns or tutus,” and “bows or bow ties.” It’s disturbing enough that baby boys are likened to weapons, but what if your baby boy loves ballet or your daughter hates dressing up?

Gift Grab and Commercialism

Many accuse gender reveal parties as being a gift grab in disguise. Not long after a gender reveal party, guests can expect a baby shower invitation. This means that guests are expected to shell out not one, but two presents to the expectant couple. In addition, it’s a lot of money (and work) for whoever organizes the parties to put out. Companies like Etsy and Party City have capitalized on the trend and now sell a variety of gender reveal decorations and supplies. It’s a booming new industry.

Friends, Family and Celebrating a New Baby

However, gender reveal parties aren’t all bad. My friend (who wants to remain nameless for this article) recently had a gender reveal party, and gifts were the furthest thing from her mind. “I just wanted all my friends and family to find out at the same time,” she told me. “It was also a great excuse for a party.” For my friend, who was pregnant with her second child, a gender reveal party was a better option than another baby shower. Instead, the gender reveal party gave her a chance to celebrate her newest little one with friends and family – and plenty of yummy (blue icing-filled) cake.

For me, I would much prefer finding out the sex of my baby in a more low-key way – just my husband and I, and in the case of my second, my older son. However, that doesn’t mean that a couple can’t announce their baby’s sex any way they want to. Just remember that sex doesn’t equate to gender – and it’s far from the most important attribute of a person.