Gender reveal parties are still a thing?

It’s another lethal gender reveal party.

Growing up, Christopher and Michael Pekny were brothers and best friends. It only made sense that when 28-year-old Christopher was preparing to celebrate the upcoming birth of his first child, his little brother was right there beside him.

“My brother Michael and my brother Chris were so incredibly close,” Peter Pekny, their oldest brother, told The Washington Post early Tuesday. “‘Chris and Mike’ — it was one name. They were always, always together.”

And so the two men were together Sunday morning, tinkering in a garage in Liberty, N.Y., to rig a small device to emit a pink-or-blue burst during the grand finale of a gender-reveal party planned for later that evening.

But the homemade device unexpectedly malfunctioned, killing the expectant father and seriously injuring his 27-year-old brother, New York State Police said in a statement Monday. Police are still investigating the cause of the explosion, but no criminal charges have stemmed from the accident.

Jesus. The original gender reveal gimmick was just cutting into a cake to see what color it was under the icing…and now people are building bombs? I suspect that baby and her mother would have preferred to have a father around, rather than some irrelevant pink or blue confetti.

By the way, the woman who started the craze, and the daughter revealed by the pink cake, have evolving views.

Karvunidis says her views on sex and gender have changed, especially when she’s talking to her daughter.

“She’s telling me ‘Mom, there are many genders. Mom, there’s many different sexualities and all different types,’ and I take her lead on that,” Karvunidis says.

“Celebrate the baby,” she says. “There’s no way to have a cake to cut into it, to see if they’re going to like chess. Let’s just have a cake.”

Let’s get everyone on board with that simple idea, OK?


  1. lakitha tolbert says

    Are they not aware that there are ways to get things to pop open, and spray around without actual explosives? Why are explosives involved in this at all?

  2. jacksprocket says

    We were so much luckier, 35 years ago or so, when ours were born. Even ultrasound scans gave little information back then, so the first we knew about the biological sex of the kid was when they finally deigned to come out. We were too busy with cleaning up blood and mess, making sure the kid was breathing, introducing them to the nipple, to worry much about gender, though we had alternative names available. Then dismissed from the maternity ward by a bossy nurse (me, that is, not wife or kid), and the crawl home (one unearthly hours of the morning, the other dead of night) to get out the telephone book and ring round as many friends as we could raise from their beds to tell them the news. I sometimes think of Matthew and Tamsin (the ones who didn’t happen), but their gender has always been strictly their concern. Both went biking, both did crafts, both seem happy enough with their identity.

  3. PaulBC says

    lakitha tolbert@1 Yeah, but I think that misses the point. It’s an excuse to blow stuff up. I feel very sorry for this guy and his family (I do, really!), but this insanity really needs to stop.

    You might equally ask “Are they aware that the baby will be born healthy and most likely with some easily determined sex whether they blow something up or not, get something pop open, or bother to announce it at all?”

  4. mnb0 says

    The gender of my son was revealed the moment he was born. If the modern technology had been available back then that would have been totally OK with me as well. What the f**k does it matter? I would have loved a daughter just as much. Indeed we had a female name ready as well. Hey (thanks @2), I now realize that not knowing the gender in advance doubles the fun of choosing a name!

  5. magistramarla says

    I suppose that several of us here are old-fashioned, but I prefer that we had no idea of the genders of our babies until they were born. There was the fun of picking out names and speculating about what the gender might be.
    Sometimes science tells us more than we need to know.

  6. PaulBC says

    magistramarla@6 I think it’s somewhat useful to know ahead of time, but not something I’d throw a party about, let alone use explosives.

  7. raven says

    About all I got out of this was, don’t build bombs and then stand next to them while they blow up.

    It seems obvious but it needs to be repeated often for younger people and slower learners.

  8. PaulBC says

    The main puzzle I have with all these parties is that they’re completely out of alignment with how I think about childbirth and how I remember thinking about it.

    With pregnancy, you’ve basically set up a medical crisis that risks two lives. Obviously, it’s a risk people take, but not something that will be mitigated by wishful thinking. I had a lot of trouble talking about either of my kids as more than prospective until they were born, and newborns are pretty vulnerable too. It is bizarre to me that people are so confident that it’s all going to work out that they’re in a party mood over it. I was not, and I don’t think my wife really was, though they had a baby shower for her at work.

  9. cartomancer says

    It amuses me to note that languages sometimes develop to abandon grammatical gender entirely, but almost never acquire it if they did not have it in the first place. Almost as if it’s not really all that necessary for everyday business.

  10. cartomancer says

    From a sociological point of view, though, I think these sorts of events are interesting less because they say something about the ubiquity of binary gender in society (not hard to spot) but for what they say about attitudes towards privacy and what kinds of business are seen as proper to the public realm.

    Something has changed about the way new parents in these circles believe they need to engage with the world at large, and I might guess it has something to do with the rise of social media. Why else would people suddenly start thinking that it is a necessary or appropriate thing to do to share banal details of their offspring with a wider group? That some people go to extreme lengths like this is a natural consequence of viewing such events as having social cachet to confer. The question we should be asking is not “why is gender seen as so important?” but “why is obvious social performativity seen as so important?”

  11. says


    In your last sentence, how are you intending the word “performativity” to be understood?

    To me your question makes more sense by replacing it with the word “performance” (or its plural, provided you adjust the verb conjugation), but maybe I’m missing something. Very few people see performativity itself as important. In fact, hardly anyone even acknowledges its existence since they’ve never given a single thought to the concept.

  12. brucej says


    “why is obvious social performativity seen as so important?”

    You know there’s a common saying about that something about Joneses and keeping up?

    There’s almost certainly an identical saying inscribed on some cuneiform tablet somewhere; ‘obvious social performativity’ probably describes 70% of everything humans have since we became social animals…

  13. microraptor says

    I’m wondering how long it’s going to be before one of these idiotic events manages to kill the entire family?

  14. cartomancer says

    @Crip Dyke, #13,

    By performativity I mean not just the performance itself but the need to be seen giving a performance at all. The social place and cultural importance the performance holds. The underlying set of values that promote or necessitate the performance. That quality of the discourse which makes people perform their life events rather than simply acknowledge them and sit tight on them.

  15. says

    I absolutely agree with having cake. Make some more and freeze it in case you have a ravenous nursing parent around in a couple of months.

  16. JustaTech says

    A month or so ago I was out for a nice cross country ski at a multi-use sno-park (yes, snow without the w, I don’t know why). There were many snowmobiliers (so loud) and a mountain of kids with sleds in addition to the skiiers.

    And then there was this one group of people. Standing off to one side of the path and some of them were seriously underdressed. After a bit more observation I could tell that this was some kind of pregnancy photoshoot. OK, sure, if you want to freeze your tail off for some photos, go for it. And then they shot off some kind of compressed air cannon of confetti.
    Oh, I say to myself, it’s that kind of photoshoot. At least it’s not a real explosive? And then they did it again (same color, pink), presumably because they needed more photos.

    then an hour later I’m skiing along in the peaceful quite when boom! Oh look, it’s the photographer’s assistants, setting off the blue cannons. All over the trail. Paper confetti is biodegradable, right?

  17. microraptor says

    WMDKitty @19: It’s a backlash against the rising visibility of transgender people in the US.

  18. lucifersbike says

    We have two now very tall adult children – one born in Italy, one in England. We asked not to be told the children’s sex, we only wanted to know if they had the right number of arms and legs.
    Judging by my experience at work as a medical interpreter, this is an old-fashioned view, but the Italian parents-to-be I’ve worked with so far were more mildly interested than desperate to know if baby were female or male. As far as I know they hadn’t painted the nursery blue or pink, or spent a fortune on gendered baby clothes.
    Nowadays there’s usually a screen for the mother to look at, and baby’s sex is sometimes VERY clear – one mother almost fell off the bed laughing as the sonographer said “Definitely a boy!”. It was very clear he’d just discovered his penis.

  19. unclefrogy says

    I think I agree the strongest aspect of this phenom is the need to be seen.
    It looks like the need to prove something I do not know what though. To be seen as part of something?
    uncle frogy

  20. JustaTech says

    I thought I read somewhere (and I could be wrong) that part of the reason for one of the first publicized “gender reveal” parties was to celebrate that this pregnancy had been sustained all the way to the point of being able to see genitals on the sonogram, because the pregnant person had lost several pregnancies at earlier stages.

    I 100% get that this isn’t how these parties are used or seen now, but it does make it easier for me to understand where they started.

    (We’re having a baby shower for my friend in a few weeks. She did not have any kind of “gender reveal party”. And really, how many parties are parents-to-be up for, anyway?)

  21. PaulBC says


    to celebrate that this pregnancy had been sustained all the way to the point of being able to see genitals on the sonogram, because the pregnant person had lost several pregnancies at earlier stages.

    I understand we all process things differently, but I still wouldn’t be in a party mood about this. It sounds so precarious. It would be time for a very small celebration limited to close friends if that.

    I literally spent weeks doing ad hoc analysis on a blurry sonogram after getting a false positive Down syndrome screen. I understood that the screen was likely not an indicator of anything, and we didn’t want to go through with amnio, adding to the risk of miscarriage. I had read a paper (this was 2003) correlating Down syndrome to shortened or absent fetal nose bone, and I measured that spot repeatedly on what I think was a digital snapshot of a lowres paper printout. In fact, there was a very visible bone, measuring I don’t know how many mm anymore, giving me some confidence. My son was born normal and healthy.

    Sorry, but I just don’t get the partiers at all. I may throw a party when my son gets his very job post-college.

  22. DanDare says

    It seems that there is a large chunk of humans brought up to think in simplistic terms about everything. There is also a large chunk that are concerned about feeling special and important no matter what. These performances are intersectional art.

  23. beezlebubby says

    I wish I could take credit for this, but I saw it on another blog site:
    We need to start calling these orphan reveal parties.