We do not have an exact term in our language(*) to express what in Anglo-Saxon culture, especially in the United States, is known as gender reveal, which literally means something like “gender revelation”. This is a celebration that has become fashionable and has spread throughout the world, consisting of bringing together family and friends to publicize the sex of the baby being expected by a couple or a single mother. The announcement can involve a cake that is blue or pink on the inside, a cannon that shoots out paper or confetti of the corresponding color, smoke flares or other artifacts. A company has even created a lasagna with blue or pink filling, which can be ordered for delivery. There are several companies (of course) that organize these gatherings and parents can choose different options.
As people are ingenious, there are also those who have taken the initiative into their own hands, with original variations, like a father who fed a melon filled with blue chocolates to a crocodile, almost losing his hand in the process, or another who, lighting a colored flare and running in celebration through a field in the countryside where he had assembled the guests, unintentionally set fire to several acres, causing losses of 8 million dollars for which he still has to answer. Others, even more stereotyped, use the symbols of guns and glitter, depending on whether it is a boy or a girl.
We are not going to criticize the Americans for this kind of idea, since stupid people exist everywhere, but the truth is that these parties have become a kind of secular ceremony that has millions of followers. Also, is the case whenever sex is involved, there are criticisms from those who believe that gender reveals and the companies that provide them fail to provide any non-binary options, as well as those who question the promotion of a sexual identity through such practices before the baby is born (as if that were not going to happen even if this kind of party was suppressed by decree of the Senate). There are opinions and tastes for everyone, but if we look at it with a little distance, the phenomenon once again highlights the human need to symbolically support certain events.
The gender reveal is fundamentally a ceremony for the future mother, who as a rule no longer has the support of feminine knowledge about motherhood. The family structure, at least in certain countries, no longer provides these resources. People thus have to look for other sources to accommodate the uncertainty of parenthood. This is also the case with “baby showers”, another kind of party usually reserved only for the mother, her women friends and family, in which the future mother receives all kinds of gifts for the baby. In a playful way they also provide certain explanations, such as chocolate-filled diapers that are microwaved so that the first-time mom “learns” to recognize the smells of her future child…
On the other hand, these celebrations indicate something else. Before technological advances and before the sex of the baby could be known via a simple test at ten weeks of pregnancy, or by means of 3D images of the fetus, there existed curious methods, imaginary formulas known only to some women, by means of which to predict the gender of the baby: the shape of the mother’s belly, the type of “cravings” experienced by pregnant women, the way in which a ring tied to a ribbon swung when placed above the belly, the modality and duration of nausea, and other such tricks. At least in certain parts of the planet, this magic has been lost, since technology has swept away the mystery of the gender of the future baby. In that sense, gender reveals are also a way to recover some of the old expectation and surprise. So that the parents can experience that emotion, it is now customary for a family member or friend to pick up the test results, so that the news is unknown to everyone until the time of the party.
In the midst of the extraordinary current disorientation, these ceremonies (which are completely commodified, producing ridiculous profit margins) may perhaps be able to function a little as a supplement for the decline of paternity, through the already widespread resource of turning the most intimate into an object of exhibition. The so-called “Google moms”, mothers who never decide anything for their children until it has gone through the filter of the Internet forums or WhatsApp groups, are a good symptom of this. The old adage that the mother is “certain” (mater semper certa est) has gone down in history. Now, for the new generations, the only thing that’s certain is what Google tells us.
(*) Text originally published in Spanish. Translated by Florencia F.C. Shanahan & Roger Litten