“Are you having a boy or a girl?” is likely the first question that people ask pregnant women who announce or confirm that they are expecting. Just as weddings can be both resource-intensive and gender normative events, pregnancy, in particular through the recent phenomenon of “gender reveal” parties, is becoming yet another life event re-appropriated to serve the whims of the market and the binary gender system. It is worth noting the gendering of infants is a relatively recent phenomenon.
Typically, gender reveal parties typically occur around the 20th week of gestation, where couples (typically white, middle-class, hetero, cis) ask the ultrasound technician to write down the sex of the fetus on a piece of paper and seal it in an envelope that they deliver to a baker or a photographer in anticipation of a party or a photo-shoot. A baker might craft a cake containing pink or blue frosting that the couple will cut into at the event (one critic described it as a stand-in for the uterus) , or a photographer might stage a box of pink or blue balloons that the couple will open during the photo shoot.
Surprise! You’ve gendered something that eats through its belly button.
Pink Capitalism (aka women without feminism)
In a capitalist hetero-patriarchy, the gender-reveal operates under the assumption that knowing the sex of the baby simplifies the shopping process, since friends and family will know the “right” colour to buy and parents will know the “correct” way to decorate. Heaven forbid someone buys the boy a pink and frilly dress!
As feminists we should be highly suspect of this tradition for a number of reasons. Gender revealing serves as just another way to make money off the bellies of women and reinforces pregnancy as a hyperfeminized and infantilized, Stepford Wife-esque event, with the aesthetic of the party resembling more a child’s birthday party than a shower.
The Cisgender Empire Strikes Back (TW: murder)
But more troubling are the ways in which gender-revealing naturalizes the popular conflation of physical sex and gender by assigning gendered identities to genitals in utero. This pre-natal celebration of cisgenderism reminds us that only certain bodies with “matching” sex identities are valued. Read more