This article first appeared on Role Reboot and has been republished with permission.
I keep waiting for the wane of the “gender reveal party,” one of the most widely-disparaged-on-social-media parenting trends since white people invented adding y’s to names that don’t need them.
It’s got to come around one of these days, right? So many people have pointed out the absurdity of “revealing” your baby’s gender through aggressively binary stereotyping, let alone the implicit transphobia of assuming you can see gender on an ultrasound, that you’d think parents-to-be would be moving away from it, if for no other reason than to avoid being mocked.
Yet this irritating (and, to LGBTQ folks especially, alienating) custom persists — and on some level, I do get it. When you’re waiting to meet your child, before they’ve had a chance to develop quirks or interests or even a hair color, it’s tempting to grasp at any detail that allows you to start sketching them out in your mind. Plus, who doesn’t like an excuse to have a party and eat cake? Especially if this isn’t your first kid, and no one is throwing you a shower.
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Nonetheless, these parties are insulting and reductive.
We don’t need to force gendered stereotypes onto our children before they’re even born, and we definitely don’t need the “trucks or tiaras” framing that chooses some hobbies and forbids others based entirely on genitalia.
We need better options for memorializing impending parenthood than embracing a view of gender that, these days, would be unforgivably sexist in a detergent commercial. I really want people to cut it out already, so here are some ideas for party alternatives.
- If you want to celebrate something about your future child in which they have no say, to which some people will attribute the bulk of their character, while others will dismiss it as arbitrary and meaningless, why not have a party revealing their zodiac sign? For due dates close to the cusp, have your guests place bets on which way it will fall. Winner gets to pick a middle name!
- Will your baby be a goth, a nerd, or a jock? Get three plastic king cake babies and Sharpie them up with, respectively, a pentagram, a pair of Coke-bottle glasses, and a…knee brace? What do jocks wear? Anyway, bake them into a batch of cupcakes and whichever one gets choked on first is your child’s destiny.
- When you cut into the cake, it turns out to be a thin layer of frosting coating a lengthy dissertation on the performance and uses of gender. This can double as a congratulations party for finishing your sociology thesis.
- Throw a charming, on-trend, Pinterest-perfect gender reveal party, but the gender being revealed is yours. (Hey, if someone threw you a gender reveal before, you probably can’t remember it. And there’s a decent chance they guessed wrong.) Act really surprised when you cut into the cake, and make sure everyone cries and applauds.
- Pink and blue marble cake.
- Everyone writes their gender on a piece of paper, folds it up in an Easter egg, and hides it somewhere in your house. Then there’s a huge egg hunt. Whichever gender you find is your gender now, and there could even be a special door prize for the best gender-finder. Have some spare genders on hand as party favors so no one has to leave empty-handed!
- Raise money for your kid’s college fund with a gender reveal bake sale. Make some cupcakes pink and some blue, so your attendees will argue with each other about which of them got the real one, like the theatrical ending of the movie Clue.
- An extremely tall layer cake, with chocolate layers for dots and vanilla for dashes, spelling “GENDER IS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT” in Morse code. This one is most effective if you prepare for it by spending years building up a social circle of amateur-radio enthusiasts.
- If you and your coparent are devotees of different sports teams, have an unbiased third party make a cake in one of your teams’ colors. This is now the team your baby must cheer for all the days of their life.
- Have a pinata shaped like a cake, which, when broken open, is full of sparkly confetti, toy trucks, dolls, dinosaurs, and other things that are not inherently gendered — so, literally anything.
- Throw a gender conceal party. Get the traditional pink or blue pre-made cake, but then bury it at midnight at a crossroads, without ever cutting it. Make your guests swear a blood oath of eternal secrecy.
- Isn’t this all just an excuse to eat cake? Throw yourself a Cake Reveal Party. Guests can places their bets ahead of time — will it be carrot or red velvet?