Gender reveals has been a phenomenon for more than ten years. They have reached the mainstream, becoming a huge spectacle from cake frostings to firework explosions. Cameras are now ingrained as a part of our lives, becoming a third-party observer of meaningful and intimate events. The hashtag #genderreveal on Instagram has amassed 1.2m posts worldwide as of March 2020.
Gender reveals have become even more extreme. Last October, Pamela Kreimeyer, a soon-to-be grandmother, was inadvertently killed by a ‘pipe bomb’ in Iowa, which was used to announce the gender of the baby. Metal pieces struck her in the head, after the gunpower exploded. Such risk-taking ideas highlight how individuals in a digital world are highly invested in whether a child accounts as a girl or a boy.
Some celebrities have steered away from gender reveal parties in favour of raising their children gender neutral. Celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Kate Hudson have showed their support by raising their children beyond gender norms. Furthermore, Sweden has expressed inclusivity by introducing “hen” as a gender-neutral pronoun to their language.
More recently, Grimes has recently stated in an online Q&A with her fans that she and Elon Musk will let their unborn child decide their gender identity. In the YouTube stream, the 31-year-old singer said they will not disclose its gender to protect their child’s privacy, as she does not think “they can consent to being famous or being in public.”
“I don’t want to gender them in case that’s not how they feel in their life. I don’t know, I just feel like it doesn’t need to be known,” the artist added.
Gender reveals serve as celebratory markers of joyful moments before a child is born
Generally, gender reveals serve as celebratory markers of joyful moments before a child is born. Through baby showers, friends and relatives visualise commercial goods for an unborn child, who receives personalised gifts based on their gender.
On the surface, gender reveals appear exciting, capturing the cheers of enjoyment from the moment the colours blue and pink are revealed. It provides space for creativity as gleeful parents try to differentiate their videos and pictures from others. The spectacle overemphasises the festive nature of gender reveals, that many refuses to see its detrimental effects on child development. It subtly imposes rigid societal norms through only a spectrum of blue for boys and pink for girls. Assigning gender with two colours reinforces there are only two genders to be claimed. It subjects an unborn child that they must fit into limited categories through their genitalia.
Even phrases found on baby clothes forms contention. Boy’s bibs are in blue embroidered with words such as “rough and tumble” whilst girl’s onesies are usually in pink with phrases such as “daddy’s little princess”. This goes further to simplistic labelling in department stores of what shirts are for “boys” or “girls”. With t-shirt designs, it becomes apparent that boys are given visions of strength and active power from superheroes and sports related clothing. Meanwhile, girls are represented as cute and sweet with clothes with sequins and unicorns. This conceptualises the identity of an infant before they can even speak.
Identity can be formed beyond binaries
Gender neutrality challenges dominant ideologies of gender by allowing children to explore themselves freely outside the bounds of stereotypes. It emphasises how identity can be formed beyond binaries. Without any constraints, children are openly encouraged to learn about themselves. Gender-open parenting is an outstanding beginning for children to understand they can be accepted by anyone regardless of their identity.
We still need to be wary of external factors. Though appearing to be emancipatory, in a world filled with categories, one can easily be excluded from prejudice from outside forces. Whilst, discipline starts at the home, it should not end there. Knowledge on gender neutrality needs to be shared to schools and wider communities. More diverse representations in the media can help educate people in an entertaining way. No one deserves to be judged. People should support and respect anyone regardless of their gender.
Last modified: 23rd March 2020