Have Gender Reveal Parties Gone Too Far?

Katriona Page, Copy Editor

Gender reveal parties are celebrations in which parents, friends and family learn the sex of a baby. Sounds innocent, right? Well, in 2010, such parties were a celebration. Parents innocently popped balloons to release pink or blue confetti, or cut into cute cupcakes filled with pink or blue icing. Now, parents have taken the trend too far, spurred by the desire to make their party more impressive than the ones on their Instagram feeds. Now, gender reveal parties have caused fires, millions of dollars worth of damage and even the death of one attendee, on top of excessively emphasizing gender.

According to NPR, in 2008, Jenna Karvunidis posted about the first recorded gender reveal —  a casual party during which she and her guests cut into cake to reveal pink frosting. From there, pregnancy website “The Bump” picked up the story, and the rest is history. Gender reveal parties became the newest fad, growing more extravagant as social media, specifically Instagram, amped up the pressure to throw the best, most creative party.

By 2016, parents had moved far beyond cake-cutting; fireworks, giant inflatable babies, alligators and skydiving were all considered fair game. Ridiculous, but mostly harmless, except when the fireworks were accidentally shot into the crowd. Things started to change in 2017 when a border patrol agent started a 47,000-acre wildfire and caused eight million dollars worth of damage after firing a rifle at a target meant to explode into pink or blue powder. The target contained a highly-explosive substance, so upon exploding, it sparked a fire that spread through the foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains. Residents were forced to evacuate, and it took around 800 firefighters a week to contain the fire. This should have been a wake-up call, as no party should start a wildfire. 

Unfortunately, new parents refused to listen. In 2018, a car in Australia burst into flames after its driver attempted a burnout — spinning the wheels of a stationary car to produce smoke, colored pink or blue for reveal parties. The video went viral, but the madness did not stop there: parents kept trying to outdo each other. 

According to The New York Times, in October 2019, Pamela Kreimeyer was killed after shrapnel from the explosion of a homemade pipe bomb intended to release pink or blue smoke struck her in the head. Just like no party should start a wildfire, no party should cause a death. While it is unlikely the gender reveal-mania will settle down because of this, Kreimeyer’s death is sending the crystal clear message that people have taken gender reveal parties too far. 

Aside from the danger, reveal parties feel antiquated and backwards, unnecessarily putting babies in a predetermined box. Since 2008, attitudes about gender have shifted tremendously; while there is still considerable debate and controversy, society’s ideas about gender have considerably expanded to become more inclusive. 

Gender reveal parties place an undue amount of emphasis on a baby’s gender (not sex), foisting a label on the unborn child and leading to the formation of harmful gender stereotypes. For example, the pink and girly decor at said parties highlight traditional ideas about masculinity and femininity before the baby is even born. 

From fires to death to stereotypes, it is evident that gender reveal parties have been taken too far. Hopefully, parents who decide they must have a party will recognize it is time to go back to cake-cutting and balloons or perhaps some other gender-neutral alternative while parents on the fence will choose not to engage in perpetuating gender norms.