How do I ask the person hosting my baby shower to make the party gender-neutral?

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Photo by Tirzah Photography.
Photo by Tirzah Photography.
My fiance and I aren’t having a baby yet, but we’re trying to conceive and have already decided that we don’t want to find out the sex of the child until delivery. I have a lot of family and friends who will likely want host a baby shower for me, but I’m not sure how to convey the idea of gender-neutrality to them.

I hope to have a shower that doesn’t include gender-based games (boys vs. girls, blue and pink, soccer star or ballerina, etc;), but I’m pretty sure all of my family and friends will think this is a crazy notion. I’m committed to providing a peaceful, neutral environment for my future child grow into an individual, free from gender-based indoctrination, and for said family and friends to know that it is important to me.

How do I propose the idea of a gender-neutral baby shower to the host with a stressed importance to not play any games or make any references that impose ideological gender roles? — Kate

A few perspectives from our readers:

I feel for you, and have had a lot of awkward moments biting my tongue at egregious sexism from perfectly nice people at various baby showers.

Is there anyone whom you could ask to organise the party who you know will understand what you want? I agree with Carrie’s comment that you can’t really control a party someone else is hosting, and will to some extent be obligated to be nice about the party they are throwing for you. If your mom or best friend doesn’t understand how you feel about gender, it’s almost certain, no matter how well you explain your perspective, and even if they’re trying, the party won’t be what you had in mind. As far as I can see, you have a few options:

  • throw the party yourself. Possibly with defined roles for mom, sister, or whoever else feels strongly about getting involved. This way, you have control over what happens, so it’s a good plan if it won’t cause too much social drama to be your own host.
  • get a sympathetic friend to throw the party, and let them let you do some decision-making about the content. My best friend and I both took this approach re. organising each others’ hen (bachelorette) weekends, and it worked well – and we were both comfortable hearing the other veto bride outfits, drinking games, and whatever else was a Do Not Want for the bride. This way you can have a shower but define the parameters somewhat. No games at all might be a good rule for excluding the stuff that bothers you.
  • don’t have a shower at all. This might not be an option, but it’s what my wife and I ultimately decided. There are lots of aspects of baby showers we’re not comfortable with, including those you mention. So we told everyone thanks, but we’re really personally superstitious about partying before we’ve had a safe birth, so no thanks. If you make the official reason personal to you, it sounds less like you’re passing judgment.

Whatever you decide, good luck with setting boundaries over this stuff! We’re wrestling with this too. Sometimes it seems like family and friends are, in the most well-meaning ways, cramming your unborn child into a confining gender role before they’ve even finished growing their major organs.

Then again, it’s difficult to dictate a party someone else is hosting. You can let everyone know well in advance that you’re not finding out the sex, because they will ask. You could also casually mention to the host or someone involved with planning some gender neutral games that you approve of.

Also, bear in mind that anyone who knows you well enough to throw you a baby shower is probably going to continue buying things for your child after the shower and after the birth, so you should have a conversation with them about how you hope to avoid gender stereotyping before the idea of a shower is even brought up.

Comments on How do I ask the person hosting my baby shower to make the party gender-neutral?

  1. When you don’t find out the sex, everything just ends up gender neutral. Trust me, I’ve done it twice now. People may ask you “What kind of baby shower am I supposed to throw if you don’t find out the sex?” and you can say “A gender neutral one.” People tend to get upset when you don’t find out the sex, for some reason. Others accuse you of not being able to prepare, or not planning sufficiently for your baby. I mean, not everyone, but a lot of people. It really upsets them. I don’t know why. Maybe because it prevents them from buying you frilly dresses or little tuxedos, I don’t know. But be prepared for a bit of resistance. I guess I understand a little because gender neutral stuff can be hard to find, but it stops you from over spending when you’re pregnant, that’s for sure. Once people accept it, though, they get creative. It’s really quite fun. And of course it makes the birth a little more exciting. My first baby shower was a pajama party, my second baby shower was rubber ducky themed. I’d like a rainbow themed one, I think.
    But anyway, the point is that if you never know the sex, everything just kind of naturally becomes gender neutral. No one wants to do anything pink, because what happens if they do and, god forbid, you have a boy? Or if they do something blue and, god forbid, you have a girl? Why, that could ruin the baby’s entire life, don’t you know? Lol.

    • The funny thing is, back in Ye Goode Olde Days When Men Were Men And Women Were Women And No One Cared About This PC Feminist Crap, there was no way to tell what sex a baby was before it was born. IIRC, all babies wore white, gender-neutral garments that could be passed down to each subsequent sibling.

  2. Some wonderful ideas here! I also want to comment in the most (sorry-I-haven’t-had-coffee-yet-way-possible) to a few of the comments…. The question states it correctly. You’re not finding out the =sex= of the baby. Not the gender. Gender isn’t determined by what’s between your legs, but by what’s between your ears. 😉

    I was reading some pretty funny responses in a prior thread to “oh do you know what you’re having?” Which varied from “a human, I hope” to “a virgin piña colada and a veggie taco – you?”. As well as “well how will you buy things for the baby (if you don’t know the sex)?”, and responding “with my VISA – unless you’d rather I use yours? That would help bunches!”

  3. I feel like this should be a VERY simple request. Up until pretty recently all baby showers were gender nuetral. I’m sure older relatives must be used to that. Finding out the gender is still a pretty new thing really.

  4. I have no idea how you /tactfully/ manage to do that but I want to do the same thing. Partly because I think pink and blue things are mostly tacky and old-fashioned. And partly because I would love to be able to hand-me-down to my other future children.

  5. Go for a neutral theme in the invites this will set the tone – such as jungle animals, rubber ducks! On the invites add a cute quote about ‘we don’t know what it is’.
    Go for green and yellow.
    Lots of games such as pin the dummy and what choc bar in the nappy which don’t bring up gender.
    Mine was gender neutral. 🙂

  6. I think the best idea I’ve ever seen was a friend of mine who did a rainbow themed party. It was a lot of work for the host, but what she did was give every person/couple that was invited a different color on the invite. The invite said something like “Jane and John want to make their child’s life as colorful as possible! You have been given the color RED! Please try to bring gifts that are any shade of RED. If you have already bought or made a gift, do not feel like you must replace it, but we would like to see as many colors as possible at the party”

    They had an awesome showing, everyone bringing things that were in their color. They had a girl, and she’s got the most colorul collection of toys and clothes I’ve ever seen.

    • I love this idea! I think it would be a great theme for a slightly older kid’s birthday party too, say a toddler…especially since the kid’s sex will be generally known by then – AND gender-ID pressure can get a little intense around then. Is there anything cuter than a toddler in lots of clashing color?

  7. Even before we found out we were having a boy I knew I wanted to do a Dr.Seuss / Oh the Places You’ll Go shower. So that’s what we planned. It’s coming up next month and I can’t wait! I am a pushy bitch and made sure my mom & best friend knew I wanted it to be pretty neutral and no stupid games. No where on the invite does it say “it’s a boy!” Etc so I’m hoping people pay attention to the registry. I dislike stuff that is very boyish or girlish so this just made the most sense to me.

  8. We didn’t find out the sex of our baby and I made it very clear to my family that our nursery was going to be a (yes, clique) jungle theme. When my mother sent out the invitations she bought jungle theme invites and even put a note inside saying that we were having a jungle theme. Of course I still got a few pink receiving blankets and tons of blue blankets. We got pretty much everything but clothes. The few outfits we did get were either white, brown, or other pretty gender neutral outfits.
    Once our son was born though we had tons of relatives bringing us “boys” clothes. We let him were the “boy” clothes people gave us because we mainly got 0-3m and it gave us a little more time to put laundry off. Now that he is begining to outgrow those and we are buying him more clothes ourselves we are able to buy clothes we like more.

  9. I have hosted 3 gender-neutral baby showers with absolutely no problem (it hadn’t occurred to me for there to be a problem with it, honestly!).

    I have always been a fan of throwing the shower for the parent(s)-to-be(versus to the gender/sex of the baby) and in their style/taste.

    The first I did was a shower with a country chic theme: Buttons & Bows – it wasn’t at all cutesy. It was mostly purple in coloring bc the M2B loves purple. Lots of brown paper, chalkboards, fresh flowers, etc.

    The second was for her sister who is more contemporary in her style and lifestyle – her theme was Baby Is As Cute As Can Bee – black/white/yellow and bumblebee themed but lots of modern pattern and color.

    The 3rd was for my crunchiest friend and was really oriented to her lifestyle of being as earth-friendly as possible. Invites were on recycled paper, used aluminum cans/sticks/twine as center pieces. The napkins were new cloth diapers secured with ribbon and a silhouette of a butterfly cut from plantable paper. She asked us to request that clothing gifts be second hand and we made her diaper cake from G diapers. Latex balloons are totally biodegradable so we had those throughout as well.

    It is totally doable to do an awesome gender-neutral shower that doesn’t rain green and yellow!

  10. I lucked out. I saw this shower( http://offbeatfamilies.com/2011/03/boho-baby-shower ) and fell in love. I immediately pointed my two best girlfriends at it and just told them: this is what i want. and they’re making it happen.

    It can’t hurt to just ask. Or at least give suggestions. Even if you aren’t the one hosting the party, it’s still a party for you and your desires should be taken into account.

  11. This is a tough one because strictly speaking you’re a guest at somebody else’s party. Granted you’re the guest of honor and I’m sure the host is looking to please you, but you’re still a guest and it’s going to be difficult to oversee every aspect of the party without, you know, getting in your host’s shorts. The best you can do is explain your position and hope that his or her interpretation of “gender neutral” matches yours.

    So here’s my suggestion: why not host your own shower? If you’re worried about seeming greedy, make it clear it’s a “no-gift” shower. ( Don’t worry – in my experience close family and friends will still find ways to give you gifts.) Or you could call it a “0th Birthday Party”. People throw parties for their children, right? Be the first on your block to include your unborn children!

  12. I understand wanting the theme of the shower to be neutral, but I guess I’m confused to why a blue onesie or a pink hat wouldn’t be considered”gender neutral”. Isn’t the whole goal to let your child choose what they like? I mean, I get that “Daddy’s tough guy” across a t-shirt sends a message, but a onesie is a onesie. My ten year old son wears pink shirts, and blue ones too. I don’t consider them girl or boy clothes- they are just the clothes he likes. By refusing “girl” toys or “boy” clothes, aren’t you feeding into the problem?

  13. If you don’t know the sex and tell them you plan to wait until the baby’s born to find out, they won’t know the gender either and will be forced to do a gender neutral shower or none at all.

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