This week it seems everyone is talking about this gender reveal TikTok that went viral, in which the dad clearly feels intense gender disappointment. While there are plenty of these types of videos on social media (and many of them often go viral), this one in particular has sparked debate about sexism and fathers who demonstrate bad reactions to the news that they’re expecting a baby girl.
In the video in question, posted by TikTok user @kc.fulton, you can see she and her family—two daughters and her husband—open up an umbrella full of pink-colored confetti. While the mom and daughters appear thrilled, the father storms off-camera in a huff and even utters an expletive over the news that he’s soon going to have a third daughter.
While the caption says “I swear he’s happy,” his actions in the moment tell a different story.
And though the comments on this video are now shut off, there were dozens and dozens of comments that called out the dad’s behavior in this video. Others, however, rushed to his defense, citing “gender disappointment” as a “real thing” he has every right to feel.
Yes, gender disappointment is a real thing
First things first: gender itself is a social construct. The thing we’re really talking about when we talk about “gender reveals” is actually the baby’s sex, though unfortunately, the semantics remain unchanged in popular culture. The easiest way to explain it is that gender = mental/emotional/how you identify and sex = genitals. And since babies in utero can’t tell us how they identify, we determine their sex by their genitalia during an ultrasound.
That being said, is it okay to feel disappointed about hearing “you’re having a boy” or “you’re having a girl?” Yes. Of course it is. All feelings are valid and it’s human to feel a certain way about having one or the other. When I was pregnant the second time, I was hopeful for another girl. We already had everything we needed (though I most certainly would have been fine placing my son in a pink play gym), and I loved everything about having a daughter. Does that mean I would have loved a son any less? Absolutely not.
There are many reasons parents experience disappointment around the baby’s sex outside of personal preferences: cultural expectations, fear of the “unknown,” pressures from friends and family, etc.
It’s also important to address these feelings so you can process them. Whether that’s through a private discussion with your partner, a friend, or a therapist—you need to work through the issue. For yourself and for your family.
What you shouldn’t ever do is cause a scene or react poorly in front of your children and spouse by showing your anger and disappointment about having another child that’s the same sex as your existing children and spouse.
The lasting impact of a bad reaction to a gender reveal
It’s not an overstatement to say that a majority of bad reactions during gender reveal videos come from dads who don’t want to have a daughter. And while we can validate a parent’s disappointment over a baby’s sex, we need to remember that those feelings are absolutely not an excuse to engage in damaging behavior.
What is it showing our daughters, when their fathers display disdain and even anger at the thought of fathering a little girl? How could they not feel less than? How could they not be affected by it?
I’m not a “gender reveal” kind of person, personally. I was pleased as punch to have two little girls, but the big shebang and pink/blue party just isn’t my thing or my husband’s thing (though he is equally delighted about having two girls, I feel compelled to report). These parties are a huge cultural phenomenon that many, many parents do enjoy, however. How do you replay a video like that for your kids in the future? It makes my heart hurt thinking about all the little girls who have to watch those reactions someday.
Also, why can’t you teach a little girl all the same things you’d teach a little boy? Why can’t you enjoy all the same things you’d enjoy with your son, but enjoy them with your daughter too? My own father had two girls and we loved princesses, baseball, sharks, dinosaurs, Barbies, fixing our bike chains, washing cars, painting our nails, and getting dirty—and he was a full participant in all of it.
Harmful gender norms also have a negative impact on boys’ and mens’ health and mental wellbeing. And it’s important to remember that rigid gender norms also negatively affect people with diverse gender identities, who often face violence, stigma and discrimination as a result.
How the ‘gender-neutral’ aesthetic movement plays a role in this
Something I often notice is that when we talk about things like “gender-neutral” clothing and toys, what we really mean is “masculine stuff for boys and girls.” Very rarely does “neutral” mean pink, purple, or flowery things, too. A lot of parents give their sons dolls and play kitchens, and that’s wonderful. I truly believe that for as much as we tell girls they can be superheroes who love sports, we should also be teaching boys the value of caring for baby dolls and cooking meals in equal measure.
Though “gender reveals” often play into masculine and feminine stereotypes, even in our quest to neutralize gender the patriarchy still dominates.
And it all starts with how we treat our children before they’re even born.