“Why do you dress her like a boy?”

This is a bit of gender-enforcement that I hadn’t heard of before – “gender reveal” ceremonies. Say what?

Slate writer Jessica Winter has a toddler, and stranger’s get worked up about her Gender Status.

“Why do you dress her like a boy?” demanded a man in the jewelry section of H&M while my kid—in a red sweatshirt, jeans, and gray-and-purple sneakers—rummaged through a pile of tassled earrings. The man was trying to be polite, but he also seemed affronted by his own confusion—and affronted by me, I suppose, for causing his confusion. “She looks like a boy!” he insisted, repeatedly. The only response I could think of was the shrugging one I gave: “She looks like herself.”

Girls and women have been routinely wearing jeans and sweatshirts for decades, yet still some people think those are clothes for males only?

I offer this anecdote partly as a disclosure that I’m not the intended audience for gender-reveal announcements. This is a genre of prenatal celebration that reached a spectacular apotheosis last week when a Florida couple went viral for firing a rifle at a target packed with explosives and colored chalk, sending up a plume of powder intended to reveal the baby’s sex—blue for boy, in this case. The phenomenon more typically takes form as a gender-reveal party, where the festive theme might be Guns or Glitter? or Rifles or Ruffles? or, because big sticks can take many forms, Baseball or Bows?

On the one hand, decades of feminism; on the other hand, a level of frantic anxiety about Female or Male that is rising to panic levels.

The centerpiece of a gender-reveal party is, of course, a gender-reveal cake, which involves slipping a piece of paper to a trusted baker who will then drop the right food coloring in the batter; at the appointed moment, celebrants cut the cake to find out if it’s blue or pink, i.e., Pistols or Pearls? Gender-reveal cakes can be cute, imaginative, even beautiful, as this PopSugar slideshow attests. Another parenting site, the Stir,has a slideshow of “15 Outrageously Inappropriate Gender-Reveal Cakes,” although if you spend enough time in the gender-reveal universe, these creations might strike you not as outrageous so much as just aggressively direct about the zero-sum nature of the gender binary. Stick or No Stick is the exemplum of the bunch, making barely submerged subtext into carrot-shaped text: A boy has a something, and a girl has a nothing. A boy has a gun, and a girl has a hole. A boy does, and a girl is done to. A boy is an active actor with useful equipment, and a girl is a void with embellishments. It would sound so tiresomely gender studies 101 if these weren’t actual people having actual children right here on my Pinterest boards in 2016.

Ah well that explains it; I don’t do Pinterest so that’s why I’m not aware of this bizarro trend.

A gender reveal will tell a future baby’s loved ones precisely nothing about what is actually important about her first months and years on Earth: her temperament, her response to food, the ease with which she sleeps and self-soothes and explores her expanding world.

And also about her later months and years on earth. Gender is not personality. Sex is not personality. “Gender” just isn’t all that interesting.

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