Target Under Fire for 'Objectifying' T-Shirt for Women

Rachel Bertsche
·Writer
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This “Trophy” T-shirt, on sale at Target, has sparked an online backlash against the retailer. (Photo: Target)

A T-shirt being sold at Target’s stores and on its website has sparked a backlash online, as many customers are claiming the top is offensive to women.

The black shirt, which has the word “trophy” in bold white letters across the front and costs $12.99, has many slamming the retailer for treating women and girls as objects. A number of customers have been posting photos of the T-shirt, which some say they spotted in the junior’s section, on social media, publicly criticizing what they say is a sexist move on Target’s part. While the shirt has reportedly been on sale since June, it’s only recently gained steam on social media. 

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“Dear Target, why are you selling shirts that describe women as obtainable objects such as trophies?” wrote one user on Target’s Facebook page. “It’s honestly appalling. I’m nobody’s trophy, and I sincerely hope that in your eyes, women are more than something to be won.”

Plenty of women echoed those sentiments. “Losing outdated, ridiculous attitudes toward women could be helped if everyone, Target included, chose to stop marketing to women as though they were objects. When was the last time you saw a men’s shirt that said ‘provider’ across the chest? Let’s all do what we can to lose the stereotypes,” wrote one Facebook user. And in a tweet accompanying a photo of the shirt on display, one user added “@Target under what circumstances should any human being wear a T-shirt that indicates that they are a ‘trophy’?”

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In a statement sent Tuesday to Yahoo Parenting, Target said the shirt is part of a collection for brides, despite the claim by many customers that it’s being marketed to teen girls. “It is never our intention to offend anyone,  and we always appreciate receiving feedback from our guests,” wrote a spokesperson. “The [‘Trophy’ shirt] is part of a collection of engagement and wedding shirts that are available in our women’s and plus size departments. The collection also included shirts that say ‘Team Bride,’ ‘Mrs.,’ and ‘Bride.’ These shirts are intended as a fun wink and we have received an overwhelmingly positive response from our guests.”

One woman has even started a petition on Change.org demanding that Target stop selling the shirt. “The truth is that millions of women and young girls are taken as ‘trophies’ every year in war, sex trafficking, slavery, and rape,” writes Amanda R., the author of the petition. “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.” The petition, which was posted online in June, has received more than 700 signatures so far.

In response to the individual Facebook posts, Target expressed appreciation to users for sharing their opinions. “Thanks for reaching out to us! It’s never our intention to offend guests with our merchandise. This has been shared with the appropriate teams,” it wrote in response to one of the photos.

Some of those customers have posted online defending the shirt. Wrote one fan of the shirt on Twitter: “There’s nothing wrong with selling a ‘trophy’ shirt. That’s just letting people know, if you get me you’ve won.” Another added, “I would honestly buy the trophy shirt from @target. I think I’m great, and I want people to know how great I am.”

But child development specialist and body image expert Dr. Robyn Silverman says that while many customers may be able to laugh it off, the shirt sends the wrong message. “Some may say this shirt is all done in fun, but many women want to see themselves, and want to be seen, as more than just a prize someone wins and shows off to others,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “‘Trophy wife’ typically suggests that a woman does nothing more than look pretty for the man who ‘scored’ her.”

And to the chorus of online commenters who say those who have a problem with the shirt just shouldn’t buy it, she says that isn’t a solution. “The problem can go deeper than the surface, and the solution may be more than just avoidance,” she says. “The more our young girls and boys see these messages, and there are so many each day, the more they internalize them as truth and expectation. The media does enough to demean women and box them in — I’d rather see positive words on tees that show what’s so amazing about the women wearing them rather than a label that tells them that they are simply a prize to be won.”

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