If You Challenge Gender Stereotyping, Prepare to Be Vilified

Our journalist friend Diane Stopyra recently penned an excellent piece for MarieClaire.com entitled “Dear Parents-to-Be: Stop Celebrating Your Baby’s Gender,” which argued that gender-reveal parties are misguided attempts at fun which reinforce harmful gender stereotypes (and, let’s face it, are just a tad narcissistic). Why pigeon-hole you’re kid before they’re even out of the womb?

Makes total sense to us, but many readers were outraged, especially once Cosmopolitan.com reprinted it. Several reactionary pieces have since been written, with sentiments like this:

…alas, the Humorless Feminist Brigade has to come along and sling a rotten tomato into the reveal-party punchbowl.

And this:

This utter nonsense isn’t palatable to the average person. Cosmopolitan used to be about lipstick and beauty tips. Now, it’s on a feminist rampage that frankly isn’t relatable to the average woman. Women who aren’t even political are replying their displeasure with this article. Who takes aim at happy parties celebrating babies? Liberals.

The worst of it came from angry, anonymous readers who sent her hateful social media messages like this:

It was enough to convince Stopyra to post a follow-up to Facebook:

My story on gender reveal parties has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times since July 5. Since then, people have sought me out to call me every iteration of “cunt” imaginable (jealous cunt, bimbo cunt, joyless cunt, demon cunt, etc.). I’ve had stories written about me and what a terrible person I must be. And I’m inundated every day with hundreds of messages, some telling me the world would be a better place if I died. On my own Facebook feed, acquaintances have joked about “cutting” me.

So let me say this: I get it.

As a kid, I didn’t question why, on birthdays and holidays, girls got party dresses and glitter, while boys received simple engineering tools, like Legos and train sets. I assumed when I got married, I’d be the one doing all the cooking and cleaning, And to be honest, I still feel a (super annoying) twinge of guilt if my husband does the dishes. Like a lot of children, I think, seeing a clearly defined set of gender roles helped me navigate the world around me. I definitely never heard the world “intersex” until I was an adult person. Even then, I didn’t understand how it differed from “trans.” So yeah, the idea that sex and gender aren’t black and white — that’s out of my comfort zone, too.

But the way I see it, there are two ways to deal with things that make us uncomfortable — we either get angry each time they cross our path, or we get educated. I’m glad I chose to get educated, and I’ll continue doing so, because that’s my job as a journalist.

I believe women who bring new life into this world are awesome. If it makes me awful to think our derivative pregnancy celebrations — with their reductive stereotypes and demeaning games — aren’t worthy, so be it.

And if this post makes you want to unleash a Tweet storm of insults, for Pete’s sake, at least come up with something I haven’t yet heard this week.

The world is a complicated place. We as humans are hardwired to make sense of it all by putting everything into categorized, labeled boxes. The problem with that is most things don’t fit neatly into separate, narrowly defined boxes. Gender stereotypes ignore the fact that there is a lot more overlap between the sexes than there are differences. Pointing out the folly in assigning character traits before even birth is just one way to highlight these stereotypes and call bullshit on them.

Diane Stopyra did just that, with class and facts. And she was rewarded for it with attempts at character assassination, assumptions about her personal politics, and a barrage of threatening hate mail. Why do people feel backed into a corner when you try not to back them into a corner? When you try to give people the space and freedom to become who they want to be, whether that’s a female construction worker or a male nurse, regardless of whatever anatomy they happened to be born with?

Easing up on the whole “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” routine will only make Earth a more diverse, tolerant and happy planet.

Here’s how to fight gender stereotyping after the birth:
10 Lessons from “Parenting Beyond Pink & Blue”


One Comment

  1. We are always calling the US a ” free country” yet in many ways the most backward when gender expectations are a strict way of life.

    We redicule Middle Eastern countries for women wearing hijab to niqab while those women are taking STEM at university and the women are not stereotyped by western gender contructs.

    I have met women from Pakistan to Libya , they majored in physics , engineering, computer science and mathematics , they all wonder why American women are so far behind in STEM, I told them athe oppression in the US is all constructed around mental ability, the worst of all oppressions.

    I completely agree with your article, this gender typing has to end.

    I was at a baby shower and brought a present of legos for her expectant baby girl, the looks I got made me realize how far we have to advance and get over these social ‘ norms’ .

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