What is a “gender reveal party”

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Since Wednesday night online is going around a lot a video which shows the Lazio footballer Mattia Zaccagni and his girlfriend, the influencer Chiara Nasti, who celebrate together with friends and relatives the unveiling of the sex of the child who will be born to them in a few months. To do this, the two rented the Olympic stadium in Rome and had a spectacular and rather gaudy scenography set up: in the video we see that, after a moment of suspenseZaccagni throws a ball into the goal, unleashing an explosion of blue confetti and the screams and celebrations of the small crowd of those present.

On social networks, the choice of Nasti and Zaccagni ended up at the center of a controversy for the pomp considered by many to be excessive, but theirs is just one of the many videos found online that show how these ceremonies have become a kind of format. And the bigger the show, the better.

The parties in which the sex of the unborn child is announced, in English “gender reveal partiesbegan to spread in the United States in the early 2000s, but recently they have also spread a lot in Italy (the latest video that went viral it was this, last summer) and other countries. Recently, this practice has been heavily criticized: on the one hand because the need to create impressive special effects and shows to share online has led to very tragic epilogues, on the other hand because it reinforces some stereotypes on gender binary that are considered by many to be harmful. and overcome.

Usually gender reveal parties take place like this: instead of being told the sex of the baby at the time of the ultrasound, the couple asks the doctor to write the sex on a card and put it in a sealed envelope. During the less pretentious parties, the couple opens the envelope directly and announces whether they will have a girl or a boy. Otherwise, in the case of more structured events, the envelope is given to the organizer or organizers so that they can set up the moment of unveiling, which is almost always based on the convention – quite recent and considered by many already obsolete – for which pink means female. and blue means male.

– Read also: A brief history of the color pink

A very classic moment of unveiling is that which is done with the cutting of the cake: the closed ticket is given to a pastry shop that will use blue or pink dye for the filling of the cake. In this way, only by seeing the cake one cannot know the sex, but then at the moment of the cut all those present understand it instantly. In other cases, such as that of Zaccagni and Nasti, the event that is staged is a small explosion of colored dust, confetti or smoke.

The first to have a gender reveal party and share images online was Jenna Karvunidis, a Californian blogger. When she was pregnant with her first child in 2008, Karvunidis decided to celebrate the advancement of her pregnancy (after a series of miscarriages) by revealing the sex of the fetus to friends and family with a pink-stuffed cake. She published a post on her blog about her in which she told about it, she was picked up by some sites and from then on many began to copy her idea of ​​her. The widespread use of YouTube and social networks in general has gradually exacerbated this trend, prompting many to plan these parties precisely in relation to online disclosure.

More than ten years and two more children after that post, in 2019, Karvunidis said in an interview with Guardian that she regrets bringing something so bad to the world.

Karvudinis was referring in particular to a series of accidents events that occurred in previous years during sex revelation parties due to the improper and unsafe use of pyrotechnic special effects. What was perhaps the most disastrous gender reveal party in history dates back to 2018: in Arizona a man fired at a target with a rifle that contained an explosive substance and a colored powder, but then for a wrong calculation caused a fire that burned 47 thousand acres (nearly 200 square kilometers) and caused $ 8 million in damage. In 2020 another similar fire – known as the El Dorado fire – destroyed hundreds of acres near Los Angeles.

Just last year, an explosion caused damage to many buildings and polluted water in a large area of ​​Florida, another in Michigan killed a man by hitting him with metal shrapnel, and in Mexico an airplane crashed after releasing pink smoke : the pilot and co-pilot are dead. And going back over the years, there are many more.

Of course these episodes are not representative of what happens in most gender reveal parties, which take place normally and without tragedies. It is true, however, that in the last period the accidents have been so frequent that many have asked themselves if it is really essential to continue to carry on this tradition, and if it is not at least the case to eliminate the part with the explosives.

The other reason why the creator of the gender reveal party has become a firm opponent over the years is that with greater awareness of the fact that gender identity and sex are not binary and univocal concepts, giving so much attention to the sex of birth is considered by many to be an outdated and anachronistic practice. Furthermore, it could create expectations in the family that could prove harmful, for example in the event that the boy or girl is born with variations in sexual development (what is more commonly called intersex).

Jenna Karvunidis herself said she became convinced of the problem after talking to her daughter – the one whose sex with the cake she revealed in 2008 – who growing up had expressed a gender identity that did not conform to that traditionally considered female. Commenting on this, Karvunidis specified that it was not her intention to discourage families from spending time together and having fun, but that in her opinion for a person “gender is not the most important thing to start with.”

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