Bitch in a Box: A Hostile Gift Guide

feminist gift guides

Just for fun this week at Bitch, we’re putting together a series of gift guides. Our last edition of Bitch in a Box is a guide to hostile gifts.

A hostile gift (as opposed to a Host Gift) is a present meant for someone you don’t want to please.

It is not a gift for someone that is in fact intended for you (eg. Homer’s gift for Marge of a bowling ball with the name “Homer” inscribed) or a passive aggressive or mean-spirited gift that suggest the recipient needs to make changes in their life (eg. deodorant or a copy of The South Beach Diet).  Rather a hostile gift is meant to intentionally inspire perplexity, confusion, and apoplexy.

A plastic poinsettia

a poinsettia

Nothing says “crap” like a cheap plastic poinsettia.



Fruitcake, whether store bought or handmade, is a traditional hostile gift in American culture.  You really can’t say “Happy holidays, I don’t really care about you” any better than with a dense, tooth-splitting, artificial-color-laden fruitcake. 

Having said that, the Truman Capote short story A Christmas Memory, which centers on a young boy and his cousin making fruitcakes, is one of my favorite pieces of Christmas literature.  Combining a copy of this book with a fruitcake turns a hostile gift into an ironic and lovely gift.

Shoe polish

show polish

What would you say if you were given an off-color shoe polish, such a red mahogany or banana?  What could you say?  A friend of mine received this gift and, I have to say, combined with a pair of used shoe trees, you have an ideal hostile gift.

An incomplete set of dishes

two owl mugs

If you really want to instill confusion in your gift recipient, consider purchasing of beautiful set of four wine glasses and only gifting them three.  Or buying a very attractive salt and pepper set and give only the salt shaker. I recently received a set of three soup bowls for my family of four, so I can personally attest to this being an excellent hostile gift.

I sincerely hope you don’t have the need to purchase a hostile gift this season, and my heart goes out to you if you receive anything on this list. Please use the comments section for hostile gift ideas of your own, or to vent about gifts you may have received.

Read the rest of our gift guides here

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by Julie Falk
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Julie Falk has been the Executive Director of Bitch Media since 2009.

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7 Comments Have Been Posted

Bad Xmas Presents

Every year someone gives me fleece pajama pants even though I have eczema and I can't wear them. The worst gift I ever got was a stuffed pineapple though. WTF is that?!

In 2009 @ 25 years old I got

In 2009 @ 25 years old I got pink boutique edition monopoly, that could not be returned because it was from 2007. I no longer speak to that friend.

I got a used plastic garment

I got a used plastic garment bag one year. Thanks, Grandpa.

awful gifts

My inlaws once gave me a jewelry set of necklace, earrings, and a ring for christmas. It was the cheap, nickel-plated kind you get at a truck stop or roadside casino, which makes sense because they're long-haul truckers. It was the style of jewelry you might find in the clearance section at Claire's and buy for a 12 year old girl. The ring was too small, as was the necklace. The items featured birthstones, but not mine. And it was packaged in a heart-shaped Valentines box, poorly covered in cheap red polyester imitation satin.

To add insult to injury -- or injury to insult -- I have extremely sensitive skin and develop an eczema rash from nickel jewelry, which they are well aware of from all the other times they've purchased nickel jewelry for me. Even if the ring and necklace had fit me, I could not have worn them due to the inevitable skin reaction. I let my earring holes close long ago due to the infections resulting from negative reactions to cheap jewelry, so I also could not have worn the earrings even if I wanted to.

I've always felt like that was a really excellent example of a hostile gift. It was perfectly hostile in every single way. Almost a work of art, really.

dish rags

My well-off parents-in-law buy, literally, thousands and thousands of dollars of presents for her own children (including my husband), her grandchildren, and her one son-in-law. Her other son's wife and I get cheap dishrags from Walmart. I wish I were kidding. You see your brother-in-law open up a snowblower that itself costs at least 500 dollars and you have a package of dishrags. Your own spouse gets piles of expensive clothes and gift certificates, and you have cheap towels that unravel in less than a year (I know, because she's done this multiple years in a row).

My husband tried for years to get my mother-in-law to be more considerate, even offering to forgo gifts for himself if she didn't want to buy me anything decent. She said she would but then it was dishrags again. My husband stopped seeing them. They are estranged now. That is the consequence of outright hostility. (This isn't the only proof of their hate, just a stereotypical one).

A friend of my mother's gave

A friend of my mother's gave her a book about the 101 uses of vinegar. That was last year. My mother is still angry about it.

Same gift re-gifting

On several occasions, one of my sisters and I have received the same gift for Xmas (e.g., a particular vegan cookbook from a particular relative who buys in batches), and in a subsequent year, she re-gifted that gift to me. At the time, we were estranged and mostly avoided each other at Xmas, so maybe she wasn't aware we had both received that gift, but it was rather odd.

Luckily for me (who is well-used to receiving undesirable gifts), I was more bemused than upset.

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