Day 29: Trophy Girlfriend

About two years ago, when my daughter Helen was just 11 years old, she had earned some money by doing additional chores and helping out around the house.  She decided to spend a portion of it on herself.  Our first stop was our local mall and a trendy store completely in sync with their target demographic…girls in middle school and higher elementary grades.  (Although I admit, I purchase my jeans there…so what does that say about me?)

Anyway…their highest selling products are their T-shirts…screen printed with some really fun sayings which are often times quite inspiring and humorous.  Helen decided to spend her money, all of it, on T-shirts.

I don’t remember two of the shirts, but I do remember the third because it struck me as a very odd purchase for THE Ms. Helen Barker.  The words “Trophy Girlfriend” were screenprinted  across the front;  the word trophy positioned above a shiny gold trophy emblem and the word girlfriend just below it.  As we walked to the checkout counter, I nonchalantly held up this particular shirt and asked “Are you sure you want to get this one?”

“Yes,” she replied confidently.  “I like it.”

“Do you know what this means?” I asked calmly.

“Yep.”  She looked at me a bit quizically. That fine line between pushing my children to see as I see and showing them to see as I see is a very hard line to maneuver.

When we got home, she tried on the three shirts.  When she got to the “trophy girlfriend” shirt, she came into my room.

“How do ya like it? she asked.

“Well, the shape of that shirt looks great, but I’m not a big fan of the slogan on it.”

“Mom, I don’t understand. Seems to me you would really like this shirt.”

“Trophy girlfriend? Mmm…I’m not seeing it Helen.”

“This shirt is all about what you believe about girls, Mom.  What boyfriend wouldn’t want a trophy girlfirend.  She is a WINNER! Awesome, smart, funny, the best friend and person he could have in his life!”

I laughed out loud. “Ohhhh.  Now I see Helen.”

I proceeded to share wtih her the cultural and societal context for what the expression “Trophy Girlfriend” means.

I never saw that shirt again.  My eleven year old didn’t like the larger context of this particular slogan and chose not to wear it.

Recently there has been much ado about a particular shirt making the rounds in a number of stores. “I’m too pretty to do my homework so my brother has to do it for me” is printed on it.

I will not share a photo of it, the name of the store or anything other than what I just did.  I’m not going to market the company, the store, the brand…but what I am going to market is Girls on the Run, the way I talk about girls and the belief I have in them.  The girls in my life would make this shirt “so yesterday” and irrelevant that whoever thought it would sell would be totally surprised by the LACK of sales.  I honestly don’t know one girl, one mother, one father…ANYONE who would purchase this for their daughter.

So all the hoopla seems like overkill.  Let the lack of sales speak for themselves. Focus on what works, what is good and if you are into making money…what sells.

The way I see it, advertisers, marketing strategists and other media folks have simply not caught up with the current status of girls.  They still think that girls will buy into this notion that stupid wins, beauty is all that matters and whether or not we have boyfriends determines our happiness.  I just don’t see it in real life anymore…not once I seive it down with a girl…really talk to her and get to know her…let her know the larger context…of how all this affects her and her “sisters.”  Yeah..she may buy the stuff, but it is often times, I believe, because it is all that is offered.

So let me blunt.  You wanna make money…celebrate girls.  Talk about their strengths.  Talk about beauty as an inside job.  Talk about the stuff that matters like loyalty to friends, standing up for yourself, speaking kindly of others and staying true to your beliefs.  Then watch your product fly off the shelves…My daughter would buy it and so would all her friends.

Mr and Ms. Product Maker, Advertising Executive and Media Mogul…I got news for you…girls are a lot smarter than you think.

7 thoughts on “Day 29: Trophy Girlfriend

  1. Sad to say that there are still girls out there who believe the shirt is true and works for them. We are working on that though and while they may not learn it right away, life always takes you in the direction of knowledge and one day they will learn. One way or another. Changing the world….one girl at a time!

  2. The shirt is another product (one among many) consciously designed to bring us down rather than lift us up. It reflects a profound absence of virtue, leadership and judgment among decision-makers.

    Think of all the people (I don’t mean kids, but adults of every gender and age) involved in bringing this shirt to the store. How many decision-points were there where this fabric faux pas… this cotton calamity… this garbage garment… might have been relegated to the island of misfit ideas?

    Consider the thousands of designers and shirts out there in the market. HOW and WHY does this particular shirt emerge as a “winner” that makes it onto the racks in a major department store?

  3. I love this. It’s so true … young girls see themselves as equal, as smart and funny. If adults just let boys and girls keep growing in that direction, the world would be fixed in just two generations.

    If you haven’t heard of it, I encourage you to check out Smart Girls at the Party … it’s an online webisode that features pre-teen girls and their talents. I think you’d like it!

  4. i got a shirt for my girl at target that reads: “play like a girl; beat the boys.” it was the only one left in her size. i think some retailers are starting to get it while others are “so yesterday.”

  5. Just to look at things from a different angle, you might also argue that some retailers are still NOT starting to get it. Take the same slogan… “play like a girl; beat the boys” and reverse the words… “play like a boy; beat the girls” and hang the shirts in the boys section. Would they still be flying off the racks with this “empowering” slogan?

    Now take the slogan and replace those words with… “play like a black; beat the whites” or “play like an American; beat the Chinese” or “play like a skinny; beat the fattie”. Would a decision-maker bring these products to market in Target?

    Why do decision-makers bring these items to us? I can hear the discussion around a meeting table, “We need something fun and edgy for our ‘back-to-school’ line-up”. After a long discussion they come up with an “edgy, slightly sarcastic, shirt with a fun and empowering message”.

    Perhaps our young people can find fun without a message on their shirt. Maybe they have enough edginess and sarcasm in their lives already without the help of a Target marketing team whose messages empower some at the expense of others. Where, oh where, is the love?

    Why can’t that same team gather around a table and create something that lifts us all for their ‘back-to-school’ line?

    I guess I sort of long for the retailers that are “so yesterday”, the one with nice, message-free shirts, and jeans, and sneakers.

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