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When did 'sex' become 'gender'?

How Ruth Bader Ginsburg's secretary helped to effect a shift in public discourse.

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It's interesting how browsing the Web has come to duplicate – I don't quite want to say "replace" – the random-access aspect of foraging through a newspaper.

And so it was, dear reader, as I was trying to catch up on Web coverage of the US president's Middle East trip or some other worthy topic the other day when I ran across "Pink or Blue, It's All Oversharing: Trendy Parents-To-Be Hold 'Gender Reveal' Parties," a commentary from Sharon Brody on WBUR's Cognoscenti Web page.

The idea is that the prospective parents hold a party at which they find out, at the same time as their guests, whether they have a little girl or a little boy on the way.

There are variations on the theme here. But in what seems the simplest approach, the parents instruct their ultrasound technician to communicate (by sealed envelope!) knowledge of their child's sex not with them but with a bakery, which will then bake a cake that, under a protective coat of white or other non-gender-specific frosting, is either pink or blue.

At the party, the parents cut the cake, and, ta-da! The pink or blue is visible.

Ms. Brody's piece included a video clip in which a prospective father slices away a corner of a cake to reveal a deep pink, and then falls, in tears, into the arms of the mother-to-be.

Let's trust the tears were of joy or relief; it's hard to tell for sure from the video.

Not everyone is convinced that the "gender reveal" party is a forward step for civilization.

Emily Yoffe of Slate, aka "Dear Prudence," has vented about "the amazing development of the awful gender-reveal party." Brody herself has clearly worked up a head of steam on this one.


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