People have a lot of questions when you are expecting a baby. The top question has to be “What are you having?” It may seem like a harmless question, but why is knowing the sex of our babies so important? It’s nothing new but in recent times, finding out the sex of your baby has become even more dramatic than ever before with gender reveal parties. Though I support celebrating pregnancy and having a baby in anyway you see fit, gender reveals are problematic and putting so much focus on your child’s sex and assuming that it determines their gender is a huge issue. Gender and sex are two very different things. Gender reveal parties usually consist of very distinct decoration, cakes, and celebrations for a girl or a boy. It perpetuates stereotypical ideas of what is feminine and what is masculine, and also, that those two roles are the only choices our children have. Before we even know who our children are—their interest, personality etc—we have ideas based on what they might like or be interested in by their sex. People usually feel like they cannot prepare for a baby without knowing the sex. If they are having a girl they purchase pink clothing and dolls and if they are having a boy they’ll make sure to have blue clothing and toy cars for instance and this is evident at gender reveal parties.
Let me be clear, I know that gender reveal parties are not where sexism and gender assumptions started. That has been around for centuries. But it continues the age-old notion that boys and girls are different and need to be classified as such. Not only are we confusing sex and gender for the same thing, but we are also pushing sexists agendas. Also, in some cases one sex may be celebrated over another. Because again we are saying that a persons sex determines their personality, interests, and behaviors and perhaps even their worth. We assume that their sex determines their abilities, strengths and weaknesses. So in some cases people are disappointed when they reveal or find out the sex of their babies.
Even if you aren’t thinking about your baby’s sex, it’s likely that the people around you are. The people around all of us have expectations and hopes on whether we are having a boy or a girl when they find out we are expecting. And in order to have the “perfect pair” we’re told that we need to have one boy and one girl to maintain some sort of “balance” in our families. I’ve reached out to a few moms who also feel pressure from those around them to have a certain sex. One mom stated, “My mother was disappointed that I was having a boy. She wanted a little girl and it still affects the way she is as a grandmother.” And it’s even more problematic if you have two children of the same sex. One mom tells Life On The Up one comment she heard recently, “Two girls? So you have to try for a boy after you give birth.” Another mom reached out with a similar story. She tells Life On The Up, “I have two boys. When I was pregnant with my third all I got was ‘I bet you’re hoping for a girl’ or ‘wouldn’t a girl be lovely?’ or my favorite ‘a girl would just complete your family now.'”
By accepting that sex and gender are one in the same, we are saying that body parts determine who you will be, how you will act, and your entire life. It’s accepting that boys and girls have to be treated, raised, and nurtured differently. By making a big deal about our children’s sex we are furthering the idea that gender is determined by our sex. In other words, boys need to be tough and play with cars while girls are emotional and play with dolls and that our children cannot choose many things at all, most of it is predetermined. The pressure to have a certain sex (a boy or girl) is an extension of that.
Families can be perfectly complete regardless of this imaginary “balance” of the sexes. A complete family does not need to look the same for everyone. So questions like “Aren’t you going to try to give your husband a boy?” are extremely inappropriate and unnecessary.