Cakes and Punishment
People who choose to have children often perform the strangest of rituals to reaffirm the gender of a fetus that has yet to be born. I mean, sonograms have to be the only instance where it is legally or socially acceptable to fawn at photographs of the genitals of a minor, and they are like -0 year old fetuses still, not even fully formed humans.
One ritual, that I was not really aware of until more recently, is the gender-reveal party. It’s exactly what you expect. The cake itself, beneath layers of “neutral” colored fondant, is baked as pink or blue. And attendants guess, bet even, on what color is hidden beneath. They surround the table as the parents cut into this cake and reveal the color. Because, if you didn’t already know: once the person with the child in their womb eats the cake, it magically aligns this baby with the gender associated to both the color of the cake and the genitals they are still growing. It’s, like, SCIENCE or something. I mean, why else would there be entire Pinterest boards just for these cakes?
I can’t be the only person who wants to go all Jane Goodall on these people and watch them enact this ritual to understand the anthropological significance it possesses. What is the obsession with gender policing, even before a fetus is a child? Why are we not more aware that gender policing, in all forms, is harmful to children?
Gender policing children puts them in boxes that are impossible to fit into, and then punishes them for not fitting, all while maintaining that it’s somehow safer for them to be stuck in these boxes.
It’s not safer in these boxes though, and just looking at the above cakes tells us that. Girls are represented in both cakes as only aesthetically pleasing. They get glitter and ruffles. This merely is a message to girls that they are nothing more than things, who wear things, pretty things. And boys, well, boys are meant to be weapons, they wield weapons, guns and rifles. How is this helping our kids? It’s only teaching them they are nothing more than objects to be used. Also, who has more power in this predetermined society, the person wielding glitter bombs or the person wielding a riffle? And what about trans/fluid children? How does gender policing affect them? Well, it turns out, gender policing is painful for all of us, but especially those who don’t align with who society dictates they are.
It seems like it’s mostly adults reinforcing this policing, from pre-birth on. I mean, think back to Toledo’s article about Target removing gendered toy and bedding sections. A lot of adults flipped out…over how toys would be placed on shelves. Why?
Perhaps it is because we have been manipulated to believe the preconceived notion that strict gender enforcement is the only way.
As Foucalt theorizes, we are all molded “out of formless clay” to become docile bodies, bodies that obey, through punishment and discipline. Policing. Scolding. Shaming. Our punishment and training prepares us to be controlled and submissive. Foucalt uses the image of the soldier to argue his point, which I think is ironic considering male children are represented in both of the gender reveal cakes above with images of weaponry, similar to the soldier. He continues that disciplining the body has often been accomplished in places: “monasteries, armies, workshops”… perhaps even wombs, or at least that’s what is suggested with these pre-birth gender reaffirming rituals. Society needs us to conform and remain obedient in order to maintain control of us.
Bullshit. I mean, certainly Foucalt is correct, society does prescribe each of us an identity that we are trained and manipulated to fit, but we never do. So why are we allowing society to fail us? If we are all destined to become docile to something, then let us decide what we wish to remain docile to. Let us explore. Let us develop ourselves for our own utility.
This society gives more agency to a fucking cakes determination of gender than to self determination of gender. We should not be destined to guns or glitter because of what anatomy we have. It’s really as simple as having and providing options for self-determination and body autonomy, especially with something as personal as gender.