Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 October 2020

As a mum, here are three reasons I'd never have a gender reveal party ...

Arts editor Samia Badih explains why she believes the popular trend is so problematic

'It's a girl': do we really need to categorise, and often commodify, our children before they even enter this world? Unsplash
'It's a girl': do we really need to categorise, and often commodify, our children before they even enter this world? Unsplash

Earlier this month, a gender reveal party went horribly wrong in California. A smoke-generating device used during the party sparked a fire that grew out of control, spreading across more than 4,000 hectares and leading to evacuations.

And then, last week, Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower, hosted the "biggest" gender reveal party in Dubai. Influencers Anas and Asala Marwah, who run the YouTube channel Anasala Family, shared a 15-minute video showing themselves finding out the gender of their unborn child as the words "it's a boy" flashed on a blue background across the tower in front of crowds ... and cameras. This felt like a remarkably out-of-touch move as the world battles the coronavirus, Beirut stumbles as it tries to rebuild and conflicts rage on in the region.

Both these "reveals", which were obviously very different situations, started conversations about the popularity of the trend and its perceived and very real downsides.

Here are some of them ...

Why does it matter if it's a boy or a girl?

I'm a mother of three and have never wanted a gender reveal party. Of course it's exciting to find out which gender your child will be, but at the "gender reveal" stage of pregnancy, the most important thing is that your baby is healthy.

It is a guessing game that focuses on one of two options: in a perfect world, parents should be equally happy about either of those, but a gender reveal party is simply another form of gender stereotyping.

The 'pink' or 'blue' gender reveal party plays into stereotypes before a child is even born

We associate pink with girls and princesses and blue with boys and princes, but we need to stop placing our children in these boxes of colour. We're all probably guilty of gender stereotyping in some form, but we need to do better.

Gender stereotyping can limit our children's aspirations and ambitions. When you ask someone to think of a nurse, they think of a woman, not a man, or when you ask someone to think of a doctor, they think of a man. Conversely, a little boy who grows up dreaming of being a ballet dancer, will find little inspiration specific to him in the toys and activities around him.

The pink or blue gender reveal party plays into these stereotypes before a child is even born. All children, no matter their gender, can be nurses or doctors; and they can love pink and blue, or hate both and prefer purple.

It's social pressure in its truest form

A gender reveal, like engagement parties, hen dos, honeymoons and baby showers, all put social pressure on parents to have the perfect Instagram life, and to spend money in the process.

In the performative age of social media, it can feel like everything, no matter how personal, has to be over-the-top, planned, photographed and caught on tape. If there isn't a photo of him on one knee, did he really propose?

A gender reveal party is no different. Sure, being with family may make the moment more special, but does finding out your baby's gender while surrounded with props for Instagram actually increase the joy of the moment? Probably not.

Even the woman who is believed to have started the phenomenon a little over a decade ago has recently condemned the rise of big and flashy gender reveal parties.

Children are not and should not be used as content to build a social media profile

Today, most people are content creators, and many walk around calling themselves as such. However, there is a very important discussion to be had about the ethics of using children, in this case your unborn child, to build your social media following, and often to make money.

At one point in the Anasala family video, Asala tells her 7.3 million followers: "I am trying my best to give content that no one has ever seen before."

But what does content really mean here? How is informing the world about what gender your child will be prescribed at birth content?

Children should not be content for your YouTube channel or Instagram feed. They are not of age to give consent to be on screen, often as advertisements disguised as content.

Being a parent is a responsibility and children should be protected, not exploited.

Updated: September 13, 2020 07:20 PM

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