STFU Parents: Why Does The Elf On The Shelf Hate Women?

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Ah, yes, the Elf antics. We’ve all seen them. One day the Elf has a little fun with a block of cheese. The next, he’s hiding behind a planter with a child’s favorite toy. The day after that, he’d poking around in the pantry by the cookie jar, that stinker! [Insert the eye-rolls of thousands of social media users here.] And yes, those staged “antics” are all pretty silly and annoying, if only because they make one wonder why parents must include all of their friends in their Elf exploits. Back in the day, my family played “Hot & Cold” when we searched for hidden Hanukkah gifts, and my mother didn’t once bust out the 50-pound camcorder to document the fun and show her friends. It’s hard for me to understand why parents bother posting these Elf images (essentially, games being played with children that require some imagination), but that’s not what I want to talk about today. No, today I’m focusing on a different kind of Elf tradition: the Adult Elf on the Shelf Photos Trend.

What started as a goofy fad (popularized by the Inappropriate Elf series on the site Baby Rabies in 2011) has turned into a full-fledged “WTF?” phenomenon, with creative Elf scenarios depicting adult-like behaviors being posted on mom blogs and Pinterest for the entertainment of parents, not their children. I get the impetus behind these decidedly non-whimsical presentations, and I’m a huge fan of twisted humor, keeping in mind, of course, that I decorate pictures of placentas during the holidays for STFU, Parents. However, something is standing out to me this year that I’d like to address, and I’ll start by asking, “Why does the Elf on the Shelf hate women?” Not real women, but plastic dolls like Barbie. Why is it that some parents turn the Elf into a “50 Shades”-reading, “cocaine” (sugar)-snorting drunk, while others turn the Elf into a stripper-loving doll abuser? If the Elf’s primary characteristic is “naughtiness,” it says a lot of about the parents who set up these sometimes elaborate scenes when their version of naughty is an Elf at a strip club, versus an Elf just being hungover.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with stripping or doing porn as a concept or even as a job, if that’s what a woman chooses to do. I also have no judgment toward consensual orgies and “partying.” But when a person sets up an Elf doll with a shit-eating grin next to a Barbie that’s – gasp! — naked and “dancing” on a makeshift pole, and then surrounds him with dollar bills, how is that not objectifying Barbie in a way that reflects ingrained notions of what a female body represents in our society? One or two funny Elf/stripper pics I can handle, but a cursory glance on Pinterest turns up a whole gentleman’s club of examples of the Elf with strippers, the Elf playing pimp, and — predictably — the Elf murdering, torturing, or holding hostage various female dolls, usually Barbie, all in the name of “adult” humor.

As much as I want to laugh along with the half dozen readers who have sent me these two recent galleries of inappropriate Elf on the Shelf pics, I was actually sort of nauseated by what constitutes certain “naughty” Elf photos. When the Elf isn’t humorously pooping out Hershey kisses, covering the family Christmas tree in toilet paper, or offering his dick in a box with a Justin Timberlake doll (probably my favorite photo), he’s running over female victims on railroad tracks, holding Snow White hostage, and jerking off to porn. Sure, these are all just jokes, and there’s no denying the Elf already looks like a creep, but why turn him into a frat boy who treats “women” (that are technically objects) as sexual objects for laughs? This is an Elf doll we’re talking about — he didn’t put himself in those situations, humans did. And it occurs to me that the humans who set up these weird, offensive displays might have a few misplaced perceptions of women’s bodies themselves.

I’m also not sure who titled the images in the Little White Lion gallery, but there’s something to be gleaned from those, as well. The railroad picture is titled ‘That’s what you get for cheating on me with that dork Ken’; the Snow White picture (which features Snow White tied up and gagged) is titled ‘Try to whistle while you work now, b-tch’; and the blowjob picture is titled ‘Fast Elf – and not just his car.’ Turning these female characters into sluts that are being dominated by the Elf on the Shelf strikes me as pretty fucking odd, so I put together a bunch of examples from both galleries, along with additional images from Pinterest, for this column. Normally I would try to track down the geniuses behind the original images, but since Pinterest can make that a rather daunting task, I’ll just request that anyone who created an image that’s posted without citation should feel free to let me know whom to credit. Now, let’s check out what that naughty little douchebag Elf is up to in these pictures set alongside slutty, desperate, sometimes dead female dolls that would appreciate having their dignity back.

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