Six Reasons I Think Gender-Reveal Parties Are For the Birds

I honestly think parents judge each other too much.  So far be it for me to judge the expectant parents in yesterday’s New York Times article, “A Boy or a Girl? Cut the Cake”.  But let’s just say, as a researcher, if I were going to judge the concept of a gender-reveal party, here are 5 things I might say:

1. The stat in the article regarding the percentage of people who find out the sex of their fetus through amnio or ultrasound is at odds with other stats I’ve read.  The percentage is more like up to 80, not 50.  For better or worse, there’s certainly a deep hunger to know.

2.  Gender – and therefore gender stereotyping – begins in utero.  How do we know? Because in 1986, around the time that amniocentesis first allowed pregnant women to find out fetal sex, sociologist Barbara Katz Rothman asked 120 pregnant women to describe the movements of their fetuses.  “Women who’d learned they were having a girl gave answers such as ‘very gentle, slow, more rolling it seemed than kicking,’ ‘moderate, reassuring but not violent,’ ‘quiet in the mornings and afternoons,’ ‘lively but not excessively energetic.’  Mothers who knew they were carrying a boy described ‘many somersaults and very vigorous movements,’ ‘rolling from side to side and little kicks and punches up and down,’ ‘a constant jabbing under my ribcage,’ and ‘a saga of earthquakes.’  Tellingly, the responses of women who did not find out the sex of their fetus showed no such stereotypical patterns.” (Lots more about this in Annie Murphy Paul’s meaty chapter on sex and sex selection in Origins)

3.  This story about gender-reveal parties is the antithesis of last year’s stories about Pop and Storm – kids whose parents didn’t divulge their child’s sex, for months after they were born.  I wonder what that says about us as a culture, or a zeitgeist, in terms of how we feel about young children and gender.  Thesis, antithesis, anyone?

4. I realize that finding out the sex is a threshold moment.  It’s the thing that makes a pregnancy feel real.  Sex transforms a fetus from an abstract “it” into a specific “he” or “she.”  But don’t most enlightened parents these days act with shock and glee regardless of which sex is announced? So why all the fuss?

5. Shouldn’t we be a tad more concerned with “Who will it be?” than “What will it be?” in the end?  I’m mean, if I’m going to get all lofty about it and all.  And why, for that matter, are these called “gender-reveal” parties and not “sex-reveal” parties, which is what they actually are?

Lastly, a personal story:

When I was mentally preparing for the great reveal, lying on the table waiting for my ultrasound at week 20, I thought back to my grandmother who was pregnant with my mom and her twin sister back in 1941.   Grandma Pearl, an orthodox Jew, assumed she was carrying boys—or, rather a boy.  She didn’t even know she was carrying twins until the doctor suspected a second heartbeat in the seventh month and ordered an X-ray.  My grandparents didn’t bother picking out girl names.  Their sons would be David and Jonathan. When David and Jonathan turned out to be baby girls, my grandparents ended up naming them after two Catholic nuns who took care of my grandmother on the maternity floor: Sister Rita and Sister Renee.    

I’m not sure what all this means, but I find it damn funny somehow.  I mean come on, it was an act of irony destined to make even a stern Old Testament God crack a smile.

PS. Did anyone else find the photo below incredibly creepy?