No Comment: Target’s “Trophy” T-Shirt Is Sexist

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 1.03.28 PMTarget is selling a shirt with the word “Trophy” printed across the front in big, bold letters—in its juniors section. (!)

After stumbling upon the shirt in her local Target about a month ago, a Wisconsin woman launched a petition on Change.org calling for the company to stop selling the shirt.

For a bit of background, a trophy is “an object (such as a large cup or sculpture) that is given as a prize for winning a competition,” or “something that you keep or take to show that you were successful in hunting, war, etc.”

Attributing that word to any woman is bleak, yet somehow we’ve come to use it as a light-hearted, comical, even idealized modifier to “wife”—an ironic concept when we reflect on the undeniable parallels between its definition and the history of marriage.

Marriage, in the beginning, was indeed something of a “competition.” The Anglo-Saxons, among others, strategically used marriage “to establish diplomatic and trade ties,” according to Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage. By the 11th century, fathers began to trade and award their daughters—much like trophies—to wealthy husbands in order advance the girl’s family’s wealth and power. And only until about 50 years ago was it illegal to rape one’s wife and withhold property from her—at least in America.

As the author of the petition writes:

Millions of women and young girls are taken as ‘trophies’ every year in war, sex trafficking, slavery and rape. The perpetrators see women as ‘things’ that are bought, sold, traded and ‘won’ through force where they are then beaten, abused, tortured, raped and murdered for the sole purpose of ‘victory.’ The word trophy should not refer to any person, man or woman, because we are not THINGS—we are human beings. Labeling any person as a ‘Trophy’ is demeaning their humanity and objectifying them as a tangible object that can be bought, used and disposed of.

Her words ring truer when you take into account that the “Trophy” shirt is “part of a collection of engagement and wedding shirts” that Target claims “are available in [its] women’s and plus-size departments,” yet are for some reason being sold in their juniors department. How can you not think “child brides” when you see shirts that read “Trophy,” “Bride” and “Mrs.” hanging in a section that is marketed to teenagers?

Despite the clarity of the author’s petition, much of the media is framing this as yet another silly little thing feminists will get up in arms about.

Fox News actually sought out women who would answer their question, “Is Target’s ‘Trophy’ T-shirt demeaning toward women?” with a heartfelt and heartbreaking “no.”

As Wendy Diamond, creator of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations told Fox, “I have many girlfriends who are single that are human rights activists, lawyers, teachers and doctors who I would call ‘trophies’ because I believe men would be so lucky to know them.”

And to follow that up, clinical psychologist Dr. Chloe Carmichael told Fox that “we have to remember that the women are calling themselves the trophy, and they’re actually in control.”

Am I supposed to believe that Target made their “Trophy” shirt because it overheard thousands of women calling themselves trophy wives? “Trophy” is not a word like “bitch.” It is not a word once used against woman that women have reclaimed, that women connote with empowerment, because at its very core it cannot be empowering—its entire foundation is welded to patriarchy. Unlike “bitch,” which women have used to define themselves as powerful individuals who fight against sexist constructs, “trophy” still means what it meant years ago—that women are a prize, a thing to be won and used.

Said a Target representative to The Huffington Post, “These shirts are intended as a fun wink and we have received an overwhelmingly positive response from our guests.” A strange response considering many Target customers are taking to social media to air their grievances, and the petition is quickly garnering signatures.

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Photo from Target.com

Julia Robins

 

Julia Robins is a Ms. editorial intern and a graduate of William & Mary. Follow Julia on Twitter @julia_robins.

Comments

  1. I notice that the concept of “Trophy” also suggests that it simply exists. It doesn’t “do” anything, which is of course the paradigm of a “trophy wife” as well, yes? It simply exists to be adored and to give credit/status to the person who “won” said trophy through action.

  2. Weird. Target also sells superhero shirts galore to boys and men but the best you can get in the girls/women section is “I need a hero” or simply male superheroes all over female shirts. It’s strange the various ways women’s *lives* are demeaned and disencouraged in the sense that the message is to passively exist for someone else. Note to Target: Women are people with dreams and goals too.

  3. susan curtis says:

    TARGET is taking a huge step backwards and advocating the materialistic demoralization of our teen girls. Are your serious? Our society demands female body perfection (go away airbrushing models for advertising please) and eating disorders are a huge issue, sex trafficking of teen girls just to mention a few society issues….Some companies are actually using REAL women for models with all their body “imperfections” and revenues have soared (Sonoma under ware). The 1970-1980’s were spent bringing equality in business and education for women; options and choices for women via legislation and society education. So I am not advocation firing the people who made this poor decision, but education about equality and psychology. Obviously, those who made this decision are uneducated and have no moral compass. I consider myself a successful business woman, well educated- a person who benefited from Title IX (high school sports for girls)and opportunities that exist/existed from the hard work of the “feminist revolution “. TARGET this message is NOT healthy for our female or male teens. Just my opinion and I will VOTE with my disposable income and NOT SHOP AT TARGET until this shirt is pulled and a public apology is made. (exercising my freedom of speech).

  4. I have no problem with the shirt.

  5. karen3224 says:

    Of course the “Trophy” slogan is offensive. It’s pretty bizarre of Ms Magzine to complain, since they seem to approve of prostitution *if it’s freely chosen * pornography *if one chooses it willingly * and sexist music videos *Rihanna* How is Target or any retailer supposed to know what is acceptable anymore? Look at Patricia Arquette speaking up for Equal Pay and Ashley Judd speaking on anti-female rap music and hip hop music. And then feminists were all angry with them for their statements. So how is Target supposed to know that terms such as “Trophy” are sexist. If Target came out with a T-shirt saying “I am no one’s Trophy, and I don’t belong to anymore” – that would be great, but then feminists would be all angry with them. The women’s movement certainly has changed.

  6. karen3224 says:

    I also find the term “bitch” offensive. A bitch is a female dog. The term is insulting to both women and animals. There is a relationship between the abuse of women and the abuse of animals. Men call women “bitches” as they beat or abuse them – it is not empowering. And I am sure, men call animals “bitches” as they mistreat them. Shame on Ms Magazine – don’t you know male abusers call women “bitches” as they rape, beat and abuse them?

  7. Hello, I used to be a worker at Target. I used to be a backroom team member. I would say that I wasn’t a huge fan of my job, but the people were alright except that one asshat. It was a job, I needed money. Here’s the thing though, how the hell would those shirts been put into the Junior section? Most of the team leads are female at my store, and the manager was a pretty chill guy. Most if not all of the Softlines team are female. Don’t you think that someone on the Softlines team would have been like “This is kinda messed up to put that in the junior section.”? Also I don’t even remember there being a Junior section at my Target. There was the Women’s and Pregnant Women’s sections on one side; then Girls on the other side. I saw the pictures, those shirt sizes don’t even belong in the Girl’s section to begin with! Also think about this, Target says that it is a part of the Bridal Collection, one could rightfully assume this shirt would be in the Women’s section, not the Girl’s section. So my question is, where are the pictures showing that this is in the Girls or Junior’s section? The only pictures I see is a backwall with shirts, not clarifying if they’re in the Women’s Section or Girl/Junior Section.

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