For as long as we can remember, the arrival of a new baby was celebrated via its gender. Cue the ‘It’s a boy!’ balloon, but it’s time that we celebrate the miracle of life and not the gender of the baby, writes Marchelle Abrahams.
Ultrasound albums are part and parcel of the birth experience for many families, as they document the arrival of their little bundle of joy from the moment they're aware of the pending arrival. The inevitable question is: “Would you like to know the gender?”
There have always been those on either side of the fence.
No, we want to be surprised, or Yes, we're dying to know.
These days the trend is to have a spectacular gender reveal, preferably on social media.
These could include a pop the balloon video - pink confetti's a girl, blue is a boy.
Or at the party, you could have one of those cakes you cut into, and out pours blue sweets or the filling is pink.
Popular videos include unleashing pink smoke bombs, pinata, baseball pops (the coloured powder is in the ball).
You get the idea.
Gender reveal parties are seen as the prequel to the traditional baby shower and are normally open to both parents and their friends. How and when it started? No one knows for sure, but the rise of social media seems to be spurring its trending status.
One might say shooting off coloured confetti into the sky is innocent enough; however, gender itself, just isn't trendy anymore.
We live in a world where sex and gender are far more fluid than it was in the past, and thankfully society is far more accepting of the fact that the two don't necessarily have to correlate.
There's genderless fashion for example. There are also a number of high profile people who are happily, openly transgender.
Cosmopolitan's Diane Stopyra says: “The issue with gender-reveal parties, in particular, is: Aren't they potentially damaging to said, tiny humans?”
As gender reveal parties don't reveal gender - they reveal anatomy.
The two aren't necessarily the same.
Then there's the stereotype.
Stopyra reminds us of how history has used colour to almost appropriate people.
Blue used to be the colour most associated with little girls, due to its connection with the Virgin Mary; Hitler feminised pink by forcing gays to wear triangles in that shade during World War II.
How's that for a contradictory history lesson on gender and its social constructs?
Carly Gieseler, PhD, is assistant professor at The City University of New York and author of Gender-Reveal Parties: Performing Community Identity In Pink And Blue. Her report was published in the Journal for Gender Studies.
“According to many online opinions, the gender-reveal trend is either a self-sustaining consumerist phenomenon or a narcissistic serpent eating its own tail,” she noted.
And then she gets right into it by concluding: “Not only does this trend encourage and ritualise gender binaries it also creates a celebration of gender stereotyping.”
Dr Leena Nahata, a professor at The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, wrote an extensive editorial, questioning the merits of this pre-parenting custom.
“By celebrating this single ‘fact’ several months before an infant's birth, are we risking committing ourselves and others to a particular vision and a set of stereotypes that are actually potentially harmful?” She said in an interview with Reuters.
She also had more questions than answers: “Why do we focus on gender as early as pregnancy, and if it's planning, what are we planning? Is it so important to know and celebrate this one aspect of a child?
“What expectations do we hold for our child just based on gender? How does that shape our expectations of our children?”
Nahata works with transgender children and families of babies born with congenital conditions that complicate a gender designation.
Because of her work, it's given her a deeper understanding of the difficulties these parents face. For them, gender is non-binary.
So, if you are having a baby soon, why not celebrate the miracle of life handed to you, without expectations?