Do you shop at T.J. Maxx so you “get to eat”?

Fashion over food? Even you, T.J. Maxx?

There are a lot of things going on with this ad (apologies for the video quality;  this is the only online proof I can find of this nonsense) that on one hand seem harmless, and on the other are horrifying.

T.J. Maxx is a discount department store, which boasts name brands at discount prices.

In this case, it aims to prove itself as the ideal shopping destination for the struggling college student who is also a fashion-forward, attractive woman.


This is the line that kills me every time:

“Designer clothes that I absolutely need, and I still get to eat!”

Okay, I know they are riffing on the timeless cliché that college students are poor and only eat Ramen or cold cereal because higher learning is so expensive. I agree that school is crazy expensive and that there were times in college that a square meal seemed like a luxury due to my minimum wages and pile of bills.

However, I was never in that situation because I went out and bought a pair of this season’s hottest new clogs. And I definitely never forewent meals.

I hate that this ad paints this girl as successful, and that her smart shopping habits put her ahead of her peers because, unlike her, they are not eating because they bought jeans at full price. And I hate that this ad portrays this behavior as acceptable.

Her parents should probably stop paying tuition, because she’s clearly not learning any life skills here.

In a country where the majority of people have massive credit card debt, this ad rubs me the wrong way. Her priorities are so skewed that she would be living a lifestyle completely beyond her means, were it not for T.J. Maxx.

It implies that were she not able to get these “great deals,” she would indeed forego nourishment in order to stay fashionable.

Food becomes superfluous, a luxury, a want and not a need. Because what she needs is designer clothes. In fact, she “absolutely needs” them.

I’m pretty sure if she spent more time in her biology class and less time at T.J. Maxx, she’d understand that she “absolutely needs” to eat and really doesn’t need a new romper for spring.

One-piece garments are rarely flattering anyway.


13 thoughts on “Do you shop at T.J. Maxx so you “get to eat”?

  1. Of course we absolutely need designer jeans!! Without them, we’ll feel inferior, inadequate, and not as valuable when we compare ourselves to the girls who are wearing them. But fear not, because T.J. Maxx offers a solution to this horrific scenario! Thanks, T.J. Maxx, for showing me how to find peace with myself!

    Thanks, Miram 😉

  2. I think that if I were so broke that I had to choose between buying food and buying clothes, there might be at least one legitimate reason to purchase clothing: job interviews. I could survive on pity food, handouts, and condiment packets for a while if I had to, and it’s important to at least have clean, hole-free clothing to wear to interviews even for, say, cashier or stocker positions. I’d probably get the clothes from Salvation Army or a consignment shop instead of TJ Maxx, though, and use the rest of the money to launder the clothes every time I had an interview.

  3. Sadly this is not a new or abnormal idea for many women watching television. Carrie Bradshaw said it most memorably: “When I first moved to NY and I was totally broke, sometimes I would buy Vogue instead of dinner. I just felt it fed me more.”

    A woman skipping meals to buy designer clothes may at least receive a fleeting confidence boost when she first wears them, but a woman starving herself to obsess over images of airbrushed anorexics in expensive fabrics will feed only her self-loathing. If you google the quote, you’ll find it an anthem on countless sites dedicated far less to fashion than to “thinspiration.”

  4. The line “Designer clothes that I absolutely need, and I still get to eat!” surprised me when I first watched this commercial. Not only does this commercial draw attention to putting fashion ahead of food, but it confuses wants for needs. For so many individuals, it is difficult to understand the difference between want and need. You NEED food to live. You WANT clothes to fit in.

    The big question at hand is, if we don’t like the ads TJ Maxx and other companies are feeding us, how can we take action and create change? I’m planning on sending TJ Maxx a letter, expressing my concern with their latest ad campaign. And submit the ad to NEDA’s Media Watch!

  5. Of all of the ills in society and the media in particular, I have to respectfully disagree with this post. I think to go after TJ Maxx for this one line is splitting hairs, and represents a kind of reactionary thinking that makes it hard for the general population to take seriously the concerns of women and how we’re represented in the media. It is my personal opinion that being this up in arms about a comment clearly meant to be a bit sarcastic shows a serious need for a sense of humor and doesn’t contribute much to the substantive dialogue about women in the media that exists so often on this site and elsewhere. Perhaps this writer was searching for a Friday post, but at best this is grasping at straws.

  6. Dying children all over the world NEED food, NEED clean water, NEED shelter NEED medicine… She “NEEDS” designer clothes. Let just let that sink in for a minute. I think I need to go bang my head against a wall…

  7. I agree with Mandy. It was sarcasm, a joke, and I’m sure she doesn’t actually buy clothes instead of food. Mandy said it better than I could, but if we bitch about every little thing, even things that we admit are probably not meant to be taken seriously, then how can we expect our bitching about anything to be taken seriously?

  8. I read the ad another way too–that it’s not just referring to money and being able to find bargain prices that allows girls to eat, but about the fact that maybe, just maybe, these jeans are made to fit REAL girls with real bodies that might have a bit of fat on them and that TJ Maxx makes their jeans big enough that girls don’t have to starve themselves to fit into them. What a luxury! Can you imagine???

  9. I am not “up in arms” as one commenter put it. I think that I can take a joke quite well, my issue is that one sentence was jarring to me. I wasn’t even watching the commercial but that sentence jumped out at me. I think that saying ads like this shouldn’t matter and detract from the “larger cause” is divisive. I don’t like young college women being portrayed as vapid clothes-horses regardless of whether or not it is a joke. TJ Maxx needs to sell clothes but it justs seems they could have gotten their point across without the comment on food. If you disagree, fine but I think microaggressions like this often get glossed over as “unimportant in relation to the bigger issue”. Microaggressions are very real and in some ways very powerful even though the entire point is that they should make the person offended feel like they are overreacting.

  10. I agree that while the sentence DID jump out at me, the ad was done in sarcasm, and after all, in the ad, the actress is a fashion student, so perhaps to a fashion student that would be a ‘need’ rather than a ‘want’. Not the greatest priorities, but who in our 20s HAD great priorities?

    In any event, with all the ads and media out there that do their utmost to make us feel not enough, worthless or downright ugly because we’re not all 6 feet tall, weighing 90 pounds and blonde (there are so many different kinds of beauty out there, including the tall blondes *smile*), this one seems pretty harmless.

  11. Most ads “seem harmless,” which is the point. Many of us feel that ads are cute or harmless, which is why they’re able to have the impact that they have. Ads tell us what we need, how we feel, etc., and do so in a way that seems innocent to most. I’m not affiliated with about -face, but it’s my understanding that one purpose of this site is to be critical of advertisements that target women so that we can arm ourselves against the tricks and tactics of the media. It’s not about attacking certian companies, it’s more about empowerment. There is nothing wrong with viewing media through a critical lense, sense we so often do the opposite.

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