Kit Steinkellner
Updated July 22, 2015 8:11 am

We always cringe when we hear the phrase “trophy wife.” It insults both the woman in question, transforming her with one snarky remark from person to prize to be won, and it insults that woman’s marriage, insinuating that the relationship is not built upon a foundation of love and respect, but rather the woman is there to be a visual signifier of her husband’s wealth and power.

We’re not cool with any word or idea that treats a woman like an object and/or property. And a lot of people aren’t cool with such a word being emblazoned on t-shirts. This week, Target has come under fire for selling their engagement/wedding shirts line that has the word “trophy” emblazoned on the front. The shirt is being sold alongside shirts featuring words like “Bride” and “Mrs.,” as you can see in the tweet below:

Since a Twitter user first called out Target, social media has been sounding off re: the tone-deaf t-shirt:

“It is never our intention to offend anyone, and we always appreciate receiving feedback from our guests. 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.”

It’s true that there have been supporters of the shirt. In addition to detractors online, there are those on Twitter who mock those who protest the shirt, insisting they are making mountains out of molehills, pointing out that the world faces bigger problems than a t-shirt sold at Target, and there was even a Twitter user who made the unfortunate comment, “The only women that would be offended by a shirt that says ‘trophy’ are the ones that aren’t trophies.” The aforementioned points fail to recognize the danger of glorifying a word that labels women as property, the last comment in particular is disturbing, as it implies that women should do their utmost to look a certain way so they can be treated like objects, not people.

A petition has been created over at asking Target to “Stop Selling [the] Sexist ‘Trophy’ Shirt That Demeans Women.” The petition has collected over 11,000 signatures, requiring just a few thousand more to meet its goal. It powerfully states just why this shirt’s existence is so harmful for women:

“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.”

While we recognize it’s only a shirt, it’s also not just about a shirt. It’s about the message that shirt sends, and the damaging impact a single term can have on a culture when it’s reinforced over and over again. That’s a conversation we need to keep having. And hopefully retailers will keep listening.

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