Look, I get that it’s an unpopular opinion, folks. But I think gender reveal parties are the worst. Now, I don’t think that people who have them are the worst, because I’m a mom, I get it, and the last thing we need as parents is shame! Becoming a parent is exciting (and terrifying) and why shouldn’t we have a party for every aspect of it? If you had one, no judgement. Plenty of my friends have had them, too. Love the people but hate the party concept, I always say (I guess?).
Here’s the thing, gender reveals just remind me of how far we need to come as a society because gender roles in action are more blurred than ever yet culturally we keep embracing ideas that are outdated and lame. Also the name is just dumb. It’s not a “gender” reveal (because gender is learned behaviors and so far all your in-utero baby has learned is how to pee in a womb–yeah, they pee in there. I was shocked too). A gender reveal party is really a “celebrate the genitals” party which is just beyond fucking weird. “Carl! Carl! They have a DICK! Barbara! It’s a VAGINA can you believe it!?” I watched a video two days ago where the mom was so relieved and ecstatic to have a girl that she bawled hysterically in front of her poor son who was probably like, Jesus, mom, I’m right here. And my heart broke for her.
I was sad for the woman in the video because I honestly get sex/gender disappointment, although for a different reason, and I cried when I found out that my baby was male. But it wasn’t because I had any preconceived notions about who he would be based on his penis as much as I didn’t know how to protect him from the world because he has a penis. I was raised to be a tough woman, I know how to do that. But I do not know how to raise a boy to fight back against the way our culture will try to shape him. Don’t think it’s a thing? On a weekly basis, both men and women, will make comments positioning my two year old son as a predator of some kind. “Keep him away from my daughters, ha, ha!” Or every time he physically touches a girl his age someone will remark that he’s trying to “make out with her.” But they don’t make the same jokes if the little girl is doing it to him. Boys=sex pervert predators. Girls=victims. If you pay attention to the things people say to children it will make you throw up because it’s so twisted. But I was also sad for the woman in the video because she felt so strongly about gender roles that it appeared that she wanted a daughter for a type of relationship she didn’t have with her son (otherwise I can’t really understand the glee). Also a small and petty part of me enjoyed the fantasy of her little girl growing up to HATE ALL THINGS FEMININE. I hoped with all my might that her little vagina-haver would grow up to fucking hate PINK AND BOWS and be obsessed with basketball and mud and bugs and dinosaurs and whatever else we decide are penis-haver things.
I grew up in the eighties in Utah where traditional roles are still very much all the rage in local culture. But somehow, my mom managed to shake all of the expectations off and live the life that she wanted to live regardless if it fit into the box of “woman” or not. She worked as a cocktail waitress, a stripper, a forklift driver, a construction worker, and a nursing assistant. She would literally knock down a wall in my living room and build a new one and while wearing her tool belt with dust in her long hair she’d cook Hamburger Helper while humming to Dolly Parton. I thought that she was amazing because there was nothing she couldn’t do.
With a mom like that, it’s no surprise that I wasn’t raised to fit into any box either. My mom supported any and all interests, styles, whatever, without really batting an eye. When my little brother wanted to wear berets, she let him. When I shaved my head and went through my boxers instead of panties and giant pants phase, she just got what we could afford and said nothing. One Christmas when I was in the second grade she bought me Castle Gray Skull, because I LOVED He-Man, and unicorns. She encouraged me to explore, to get dirty, and to play hard.
In elementary school, my hair went past my butt. I loved scrunchies and bike shorts, and shiny glittery tops. I’d wear them while literally knee deep in mud, hunched over a stinky creek with a half full jar of tadpoles, cursing like a sailor while sweat and bog water rolled down my hair line.
We think of blurring gender lines as being this super progressive idea for loud and angry feminists. But what we forget is that Cowgirls were the original OG’s who said fuck gender, pulled on their Levi 501’s, climbed up onto a horse, and fucked up the fields. There are no women tougher than farmer girls. And on my mom’s side, they’re largely cow-folks turned city-folks.
Because of the way I was raised, it was always common sense that the way that you dress, the way that you act, the things that you like, are not chosen by your genitalia and that what you have tucked into your pants (or dresses) doesn’t dictate what you’re capable of doing or allowed to do (at least, it shouldn’t). I have a vagina the last time I checked. I identify as a woman. And yet, I can throw a football better than a lot of guys. I can fix a car. I won many bar fights in my youth (against dudes). I like getting dirty, jumping fences, climbing trees and feeling free. I also like high heels, and dresses, and makeup, and all things shiny and covered in fake fur.
Gender reveals bum me out because what is really being celebrated is the expectations the parents have of their kid based entirely on the child’s equipment. “A penis! Mud! Soccer! Man cave! Grunting!” “A vagina! Pink! Dresses! Disney princess!” It’s kinda sad that before a child is even born, we’ve imagined who they should be based on ever changing cultural norms. Remember when high heels, whigs, makeup, and dresses were THE acceptable attire for men? It’s not liberal hoo-doo, it’s LITERALLY all made up. Grab a history book, you’ll see it.
Now, I’m NOT saying that kids should like this or that or that they won’t develop all kinds of interests, some stereotypical and others not. I have a son, we raise him totally open and gender neutral like my mom did me, and he LOVES cars, and lawnmowers, and construction vehicles and the damn hammer. He also loves his doll and stuffed animals, playing with my makeup, cooking, painting, dancing, singing, and putting clips in my hair. What I’m saying is that we should give them a chance to discover who they are without our preconceived notions of who they should be based on their penis, or vagina, (or middle sex). They’re just sex organs, folks. And while sex dictates hormones and some of our biology, according to scientists, it does not completely dictate how we behave or what hobbies we develop or how we like to dress. You’re thinking, “Men were hunters and women were gatherers and that’s why men like cars and women like baking” but I think it’s important to add, from everything I’ve read, that those theories were all based on research of men that men did. DNA tests are changing those ideas. Graves that we assumed were male based on the money and weapons that were found with the bodies turned out to be female in a lot of cases after genetic testing. And according to articles on the interwebs the Persian empire (my people!) had women generals who commanded massive armies (it was a woman who commanded the infamous Immortals 3,000 years ago). So please, spare me the crapola.
I’m not saying I have all the answers or even know much at all. But what I’m trying to say is, can’t we find a new way to celebrate the magic of becoming a parent? Could boozy “It’s A Human!” parties be a thing? You know, some cocktails (not for you mom-to-be, that would be horribly irresponsible…unless it’s just a tad). Or a “you’re becoming parents, huzzah!” Like a celebration of life or change. I think it would be good for our kids and ourselves if we let them develop a multi-dimensional identity and a range of interests, and ways of expressing themselves. We’d probably see kinder boys who make better fathers and parents if we normalized playing with dolls. We’d see more self-assured girls if we let them climb and fall and fix cars. All of them would have better self esteem if they could experiment and live an authentic life based on who they are instead of who our society tells them to be. And before you roll your eyes and scoff, take a look at the people in your life. How many women do you know who follow “traditional” roles? All of the damn republican women that I know are far from docile kitchen slaves and are actually big ole boss bitches despite being way into “tradition.” Most of the men that I know under forty aren’t afraid of a pedicure and they cook and clean. We’re already doing it bit by bit in action even if we for some reason perpetuate old and silly ideas in words or with our party choices.
Can we as a society just be a little more free and abandon these goddamn parties? Or at least can we be honest and just start calling it a “celebration of dick and/or vajayay!” fest?