The "gender reveal party!!
It's basically…an excuse for a party. The expectant mom gets the sonogram results on the sex of her baby and then throws a bash. Pink and blue is the color scheme, and there is an entire school of journalism devoted to staging the big reveal (pink or blue cream in the center of a cupcake, for example). Sometimes the expectant mother asks to be kept in the dark herslef until, say, she bites into that cupcake. Then: cheers, champagne, beer, whatever. (Unlike a baby shower, a reveal part typically isn't just an all-female event but involves husbands–and barbecued burgers as well as just cake).
But alas, the Humorless Feminist Brigade has to come along and sling a rotten tomato into the reveal-party punchbowl.
Here is Diane Stopyra, writing for Marie Claire (and reprinted in Cosmopolitan):
For starters, gender-reveal parties don't actually reveal gender—they reveal anatomy. Gender is a wholly different thing, inextricably tied to the social constructs around it.
Gee, already I don't want Stopyra at any of my parties, much less a reveal party (if I ever had to have one). What a killjoy.
Of course, as Stopyra promptly reveals, she can't stand celebrations of pregnancy of any kind:
But my discomfort with the gender-reveal party goes beyond my standard objection to fanfare surrounding gestational markers—which is primarily that, because we don't celebrate non-pregnancy-related milestones with the same enthusiasm, we're reinforcing the archaic notion that a woman's value rests squarely in her ability to grow tiny humans.
Well, isn't the "ability to grow tiny humans" in fact just about the most wonderful–and valuable–thing about women?
Then, of course, Stopyra hauls out the obligatory Humorless Feminist Academic:
"Some of the themes we're seeing are so backwards and biased," says Carly Gieseler, PhD, assistant professor at The City University of New York and author of "Gender-Reveal Parties: Performing Community Identity in Pink and Blue," a report published last January in the Journal for Gender Studies. "I'm thinking of 'Tutus or Touchdowns' and 'Bows versus Badges.' Women can't become a sheriff and wear a badge? At a time when these expectations about gender are eroding, this type of ritual is working against that progress. We're affixing a label to a child who hasn't even had a chance to enter the world and assume that identity."
The abstract for Giesler's paper suggests that it's quite a piece of work:
The gender-reveal party offers a performative space at the threshold of life, a liminal moment drawing on the power of communitas while creating a sense of permanence and security in the categorization of sexual and gendered difference. Uniting a community permits a collective reshaping of the now-sexed/now-gendered baby through rituals linked to binaried perceptions of identity. It allows adults to recuperate what they have learned from their own gendered constructions, reinscribing expectations and assumptions onto the unwritten body of the unborn and propelling these ideals into the digital, social, public world.
Whew! So this is what scholars are up to these days!
Now, sure, there are genuine instances of "intersex" people (there is a huge debate over the exact frequency of such conditions–and the "one out of every 1,500" cited by advocates is probably too high a number)–and it may do them a disservice to assign them to one gender or another. But the vast majority of human beings are eithe rmale or female, which makes sense because mammal reproduction depends on sexual dimorphism, and if there's one thing a species wants to do, it's to survive.
In short, "binary" is what we humans mostly are. So what's wrong with celebrating it with some harmless fun, espcially since that critter in the womb probably doesn't know that the folks outside are celebrating her existence with pink-cream cupcakes? But if you're a Humorless Feminist, fun is supposed to be what you throw cold water onto.