Target 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.
Photo from Target.com