Gender reveal explosion

A screenshot of a video released by the USDA Forest Service shows the moment the Sawmill Fire was ignited on April 23, 2017. The blaze began following an explosive gender reveal and ultimately led to 45,000 acres of land being burned and causing $8 million in losses.

After an effort to create a viral gender reveal video resulted in an explosion near Knoxville that killed a grandmother-to-be, an Internet blogger believed to be the beginning of gender reveal parties regrets what the trend has become.

The fatal explosion near Knoxville, reported Saturday, Oct. 26, was one of two in Iowa that weekend related to a gender reveal party. According to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, 56-year old Pamela Kreimeyer was struck in the head by a piece of metal debris. Kreimeyer, the grandmother-to-be, was killed instantly.

The homemade explosive device was made to show the gender of a baby to the expectant parents and family. Authorities say family members had hoped to share a recording of the reveal celebration on social media. The home-made device was inadvertently constructed as a pipe bomb.

The following day, a gender reveal party in Waukee resulted in another explosion. Authorities say the explosion resulted from a device included in a commercial gender reveal kit. There were no injuries or fatalities in that incident.

Gender reveal parties have become an increasingly popular trend. It began in 2008, when blogger Jenna Karvunidis wrote about an event she held for her unborn daughter. Karvunidis and her family cut into a cake together, revealing pink icing inside. She then wrote about the event on her blog, and was later featured in a local magazine.

During gender reveal parties, expectant parents and guests create plans to reveal the gender of an unborn baby by revealing shades of either pink for a girl or blue for a boy. The reveals are often recorded and shared on social media.

Although Karvunidis hosted the first-ever gender reveal party, as the trend has advanced into more spectacular exercises she is no longer a fan.

“I think it’s a dangerous trend, and not just physically,” Karvunidis said. “I think the more egregious danger for it really is the social harm it does. This affects many more millions of people. You might get a few people who get hurt from explosives, but you have a larger amount of people who are really hurt socially by the dichotomy it helps reinforce.”

Dr. Randall Renstrom, Associate Professor of Psychology at Central College, agrees, saying he believes the trend itself is odd. The term “gender reveal” is actually a misnomer, he said. Renstrom says these parties actually reveal the baby’s biological sex. Gender identity is different and instead refers to the social, cultural and psychological characteristics used to determine male and female.

“On one hand, you have people being more and more accepting that gender is fluid and gender might change,” Renstrom said. “On the other hand, you have these parties where people are really categorizing or placing their child in a box and kind of discounting the notion of fluidity. It’s just odd to me that those two things are increasing when they’re a bit contradictory.”

Karvunidis, now the mother of three daughters, is a prime example. She said her oldest daughter, believed to be the world’s first gender reveal baby, now wears suits and is “so confident, she’s not affected by anything.”

“The pink and blue, this manly-man and girly-girl dichotomy that it helps reinforce and contributes to, it really limits how girls and women see themselves from the very beginning,” said Karvunidis.

“I hope everybody understands how out of fashion these parties are. We don’t need to have these kinds of parties at all anymore. ... People need to evolve these parties into something else.”

Gender reveals can be as simple as cutting a cake or popping balloons filled with colored confetti and glitter. However, more extreme gender reveals have included plumes of smoke, confetti cannons or explosive devices that reveal either pink or blue.

Social media makes it possible for people to share aspects of their lives that were once considered private, including pregnancy. Renstrom says that when people see gender reveal parties posted on social media, they want to jump on the bandwagon and hold a similar type of reveal.

Karvunidis said that she did not expect the parties to become such a popular trend, but in hindsight, she should have seen it coming. She believes that social media played a part in the spreading of the trend, calling it one part of the equation to make “the perfect storm.”

Renstrom views business as the other driving force in the increased popularity of gender reveal parties. He says that businesses and party planners now offer to bake cakes and deliver balloons for gender reveal events, commodifying the occasion.

Access to gender reveal supplies has never been easier. The growing trend has party supply stores selling products specifically designed for the occasion.

Linda Gast, manager of Nobbies Party Superstore in Clive, says the store sells over 100 products designed for gender reveal parties. They offer everything from piñatas, balloons and decorations to confetti kits and canons, small smoke reveals and golf balls filled with colored powder.

“I think everyone else is just now getting into selling them,” Gast says of gender reveal party products. “We’ve sold them for over two years.”

Although Gast is unable to estimate how many gender reveal supplies the store sells, she says that they have been popular items ever since they hit Nobbies’ shelves, with products spread across multiple departments.

Despite the trend’s extreme popularity, there have been several unforeseen consequences resulting from the parties.

A 2017 gender reveal party in Arizona sparked a fire consuming nearly 47,000 acres and causing $8 million in damage. The expectant father, a U.S. Border Patrol agent, shot a target full of blue-colored explosives to announce the gender of his unborn baby.

In Australia, a 2018 gender reveal party caused a car to burst into flames. Triggered by the car’s tires skidding across the pavement, blue smoke rose into the air before flames burst from the undercarriage and engulfed the car. The driver escaped unharmed and no one was hurt.

While past gender reveal parties resulted in serious mishaps, the incident in Knoxville is the first to result in a fatality. Karvunidis gives her condolences to the Kreimeyer family and believes the explosion was an isolated incident.

However, she does not think it will serve as the tipping point in changing gender reveal parties. Rather, she hopes learning about the social harm associated with gender reveal parties will steer the occasion in a different direction.

“When we know better, we do better,” said Karvunidis. “We need to start doing better socially.”

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