Guest post: The technology ratchet

Originally a comment by Sastra on Just a bomb party, officer.

why on earth is the “gender reveal” such a big deal?

I had my two kids in the early 80’s, which was just before learning your child’s sex before birth became easier and more popular. Moms my age “wanted to be surprised.” When it started to change, the most common reason we gave to each other was “I want to know what color to paint the nursery” or a similar variation. In other words, decorating.

Many years ago I read a book on the sudden uptake in “labor-saving devices” for housewives back in the early 1900s. The people (men) who created and promoted them saw their major selling point as adding leisure time for ordinary women. A vacuum or washing machine meant the wife could visit, read, go to concerts, join clubs, or volunteer for noble causes. It was like having a maid.

Instead, the ability to do chores more quickly resulted in higher standards of cleanliness. If doing the laundry didn’t take all day, then doing it every day instead of once a week meant you weren’t lazy. The space to be filled simply raised the level of measuring what was already there, and was filled with more of the same. The labor-saving devices ended up making more housework, not less. Human nature.

And it occurs to me that this may have happened when we suddenly began learning sex before birth. Names, then decorating, then more decorating, and clothes, and toys, and books — all more and more divided along the lines of sex. The opportunity to create a sex-based environment lead to increasing elaborations on that theme. Not just a pink wall, but a pink nursery; not just a pink nursery, but a pink sparkle princess castle playhouse nursery. And the little tiger got the same treatment, but with sports and planes. And slowly, over time, the “gender reveal” became more and more important.

And now we’re dealing with young people who insist that their “true” gender is what defines them as human, the very core of who and what they are.

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