It’s just fashion, isn’t it?

Published 9:20 am Friday, July 24, 2015

Did you hear the one about the woman who’s petitioning Target to stop selling shirts that she believes are demeaning?

No, really. There’s no punchline here.

The issue came to my attention the other day when I went to to read what was going on in the world. Under the Popular Searches category I was lured in by a suggestive headline and took the click bait.

“A.R. from Wisconsin” has evidently launched a petition at, calling out the popular department store chain for selling shirts for women with the word “Trophy.”

She notes at the beginning of her online plea that the word trophy is “any THING [her emphasis] taken in war, hunting, competition, etc., especially when preserved as a memento, spoil, prize, or award- anything serving as a token or evidence of victory, valor, skill, etc.”

A quick check of my dictionaries confirms this definition, so there’s no argument there.

A.R. states that women and young girls are abducted annually in rape, sex trafficking, slavery and war, and continues: “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.”

I thought it was quite decent of her to include men as being human beings.

What set her off was the recent sighting of a shirt with the word ‘Trophy” in the junior girls department at the Target store in her neighborhood. A.R. believes that word choice is “demeaning and objectifying” to the store’s female market.

The store was also chided for having committed a similar offense in the past. A.R. wasn’t specific, but I’ll take her word for it.

She calls on people to demand of Target to take this shirt off the racks, closing with the statement:

“You may say to yourself, ‘It’s only a shirt, what’s the big deal?’ I would respond by asking you to consider how strong words can be, and the power they have to both help and hinder. This shirt hinders progress made by thousands of advocates before us. It says that, despite being ‘equal’ on paper, we are still viewed as ‘things,’ and Target wants to profit off of that.”

In response, Molly Snyder, a store representative, said that Target never had an intention to hurt anyone.

“The shirt you’re describing is part of a collection of engagement and wedding shirts that are available in our women’s and plus size departments,” Snyder wrote to USA Today. “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.”

I could go on and on about how men and women objectify one another, often without realizing it, but the short answer is that the shirt is exactly that: fashion, which is often controversial by its nature.

I think that had A.R. left the matter alone, the item in question would have been in the discount bin within a year, and out of the store entirely.

I applaud her sincerity, but think she’s forgotten the adage that “There’s no such thing as bad publicity. Now she’s probably added to Target’s coffers by starting this petition.

Incidentally, that the shirt in question is available for $12.99. Go to, scroll to tops under women’s clothing, then down to graphic tees. You’ll find it on page 5, along with Bride or Team Bride (each for $14.99). “Mrs.” is on page 2 or 3.

Curiously, I didn’t see the “Trophy” shirt listed in the men’s section, but perhaps it’s only a matter of time.

STEPHEN H. COWLES is a staff writer for The Tidewater News. He wishes he could be somebody’s trophy. Contact him at 562-3187 or