This week, a Louisiana man with the moniker of “T-Mike, the Gator King” managed to give every “local Florida man” story a run for its money by combining two beloved Internet mainstays: gender reveal parties and death-defying shenanigans.
In a video viewed no less than five million times, the Gator King (also known as Mike Kliebert) is seen wrestling an alligator to the amusement of his friends and family before tossing a Jell-O-filled watermelon into the jaws of the gator, whose name is apparently Sally. (I’m not sure what Sally did in a past life to deserve to be co-opted into this stunt, but I can only assume it was terrible. ) “The primordial reptilian killing machine promptly chomps the fruit, revealing the blue Jell-O stored inside,” writes MEL magazine’s John McDermott. This not only confirmed that the Kleibert clan is expecting a boy (congrats!) but that, from now on, every single gender reveal party with a simple cake emblazoned with “pistols or pearls” will be usurped by this display of red-blooded American masculinity. The video ends, I should note, with a child almost rolling directly into the jaws of Sally.
“We have a few gators who like to eat fruit, so I figured fruit was great —let’s get a watermelon, drill a hole in it, add some Jell-O to it, and throw it in the gator’s mouth? Let her bust it open, no big deal, you know?” Kliebert explained in an interview with HuffPost. “And what better way to do it than having an alligator that is 61 years old that my grandfather hatched in 1957?” What better way, indeed.
This virile display is apparently part of a sub-trend in gender reveal nation: making the parties manlier. Unlike traditional baby showers, which have a fraught history of debate on whether or not they should be co-ed, gender reveal parties are theoretically open to all comers. But merely having the men folk present isn’t enough. As McDermott writes, since the typical “reveals themselves — popping a balloon to have pink or blue confetti fall out, or slicing open a pink or blue cake — are traditionally feminine” to keep their manly guests entertained, many gender reveal parties have become a race to the bottom of cheap stunts. Most don’t involve alligators, but a fair few involve blowing things up to reveal blue or pink plumes of chalk dust and/or dyed exhaust fumes. Not very healthy for mommy’s lungs!
It’s pretty par for the course that when gender reveal parties make the headlines, they’re roundly mocked for the ways that they traffic in outdated gender stereotypes (blue or pink, pistols or pearls, rifles or ruffles). But the push to masculinize these parties’ turbocharges a bizarre collective fixation with equating children’s genitalia (because that’s basically what these parties are about) with the gender identity these children will eventually assume. As Jessica Winter wrote for Slate in 2016, gender-reveal parties “pull off a rousing counter-progressive two-for-one: weapons-grade reinforcement of oppressive gender norms (sorry, feminists!) and blunt-force refusal of the idea that sex assigned at birth does not necessarily equate with gender identity (sorry, trans-rights movement!).” The inclusion of guns or gators or golf to keep male partygoers entertained only makes these parties more obsessed with antiquated notions of gender, answering the altogether unimportant question of boy or girl with silly stunts designed for the insecurities of adults rather than excitement for the people their kids might actually be.