Mama Mayhem

It’s my turn to reveal gender parties suck!

By Ivy Jensen

GENDER stereotypes are everywhere.

Blue is for boys, pink is for girls.

Daughters are beautiful and sons are strong.

Boys play with trucks, girls with dolls.

Men go to work, women stay at home.

Doctors are male, nurses are female.

These stereotypes have become so ingrained in society, it becomes almost impossible to challenge them at times.

But I decided to give it a try to see what would happen.

I expected a bit of resistance, mainly from men.

What I didn’t expect was hostility from women. And not just any women, but my sisters.

I just have to say, I love my sisters wholeheartedly. They are smart, independent women so I am not writing this to shame them in any way.

I am just trying to show disputing deep-rooted stereotypes is harder than it sounds.

My sisters and I all grew up in the same household, where our parents always told us we could do and achieve anything we wanted. As long as we worked hard.

My middle sister recently announced her second pregnancy (which we’re all super excited about) and she is planning a gender reveal party.

Now despite the fact that I hate, with a capital H, gender reveal parties, I have to respect my sister’s choice considering it is her child.

Now, I know I’m going to cop a lot of flak for this, but just hear me out.

Number one: If we want to teach our children they don’t have to be defined or restricted by their gender, why do we have to make their first party all about whether they are a boy or girl?

It kind of goes against the whole ‘we don’t care what sex the baby is. As long as it’s healthy’. Because it obviously means they care a whole lot.

Number two: I love surprises. Child birth is hard enough. Finding out what you’re having after hours of excruciating pain is a blissfully personal moment.

And number three: It’s a waste of money. Cash that could be better spent on a pram, car seat or nappies.

Anyhoo, for the party, my sister is having a cake made which she and her partner will cut open to reveal either a blue or pink filling.

It seems to be the trend at the moment with expectant parents. Either that, or popping a balloon containing pink or blue confetti, breaking open a pinata filled with pink or blue lollies or setting off a smoke bomb with (you guessed it) pink or blue powder.

Which happened to be the cause of an $11 million fire at a gender reveal party in the US last year.

Who says girls like pink and boys like blue anyway?

So I challenged my sister to change the colours. Why not yellow and red, or purple and green?

Well, I was accused by both my sisters of being a killjoy, lame and a spoilsport.

‘‘Don’t take it so seriously’’, ‘‘It’s just a bit of fun’’, ‘‘You are a massive face palm’’ and ‘‘I just think it’s sad how negative you are’’ were just some of the comments.

Now I’m mature enough not to take these insults to heart, but it got me thinking about how hard it is to get people thinking differently about gender.

My sisters are anything but sexist. One of them has two boys and the youngest loves wearing nail polish and lipstick and playing with Barbies. And my sister happily allows her son to be himself. Which I think is wonderful.

Because rigid gender roles and stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity — the idea males and females should act in certain ways or carry out certain roles — are just one of the drivers of men’s violence against women.

Our Watch chief executive Mary Barry said outdated gender stereotypes were subtly reinforced to children from very early in their development.

I completely agree with Mary and child development experts when they say telling our boys not to cry when they are upset or calling our girls ‘bossy’ when they assert themselves can shape their attitudes and expectations into adulthood.

And so these stereotypes then strengthen the idea men ‘naturally’ make better leaders and should hold positions of power, because they are more rational and less emotional – an opinion supported by one in five Aussies.

Now you might think colour associations have nothing to do with gender stereotyping.

But words usually associated with the colour pink include delicate, sweet, nice, playful, cute and feminine.

While blue symbolises loyalty, strength, wisdom and trust.

If I’m called a killjoy, lame or pathetic for challenging these gender-based stereotypes, so be it.

I want my daughters and my nieces and nephews to know they can be whoever they want to be and not be pigeonholed into thinking girls can only do this and boys are supposed to act like that.

And hopefully one day, these views will just be considered normal.