Saying ‘time’s up’ with Oliveoil
Oprah Winfrey’s speech at the 2018 Golden Globes was the shot heard around the world. After receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement, she announced “their time is up” referring to powerful men in the entertainment industry and beyond that have used their stature to sexually abuse and discredit women speaking out against them. Hillary Norman, creator of Say It With Oliveoil clothing line and Jenn Hensel, co-designer and Norman’s business associate were among the millions of people who heard Oprah’s call to action.
Now, they are using their ideas and designs to help support the initiative while offering humorous and empowering attire for women in the Triad and beyond. Norman said Say It With Oliveoil’s suggestiveness is supposed to be ironic and over exaggerated to make a point about how it feels for women to be objectified, and the brand strives to turn objectification into education. The brand’s name comes from the character Olive Oyl in the cartoon “Popeye.” Norman said this “downtrodden, anti-heroine” relied heavily on Popeye to save her from the villain Bluto (who repeatedly harasses her throughout the show).
“So I just wanted to take a character like that and sort of use it as a touchstone, or totem to remind us of how women saw themselves for a long time,” she said. “They saw themselves as relying on men for everything. I like taking a name reversing it, interpreting it differently and reinventing it.”
Norman said her designs are unapologetically feminist and humorous.
“It’s supposed to dredge up those urges to make people think,” Norman wrote in a text message.
Norman started another business and was doing custom designs and T-shirts for artists and musicians before she created Say It With Oliveoil.
“The immediacy of the design process was something I thought could be an interesting medium to explore as it pertained to things socially,” Norman said. “Especially with what is going on the #MeToo movement as well as the Time’s Up initiative.”
Norman said these two social movements involving women speaking out against sexual harassment in the public eye inspired her. She said she went to Savannah College of Art and Design and was educated to work out her feelings on things through design.
“It is a nice way to use art to make a point,” she said. “It is fun to be able to use it for something that resonates in society right now and affecting so many women.”
Norman said she is using her clothing line to raise money for the Time’s Up initiative, which according to its website (www.timesupnow.com/) is a legal defense fund (housed and administered through the National Women’s Law Center) and a “unified call for change from women in entertainment for women everywhere.” The initiative is powered by women and addresses the “systemic inequality and injustice in the workplace.” According to the Say It With Oliveoil website, 5 percent of sales will be donated to the initiative.
Norman thinks it is an impactful way people can donate their money and raise awareness for women fighting against sexual discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
“Because it is those court cases [that are] setting a new precedent and will change the way the law is interpreted,” she said.
Norman also believes that instilling the fear of consequence in people is important to this movement and why it’s important to donate a percentage of sales to the initiative.
“You wear something that takes back a term that people throw at you for being a strong woman and remind them in a funny way of ‘yeah, I’m a ball buster. But I am proud of it and happy that I am a strong woman,’” she said. “I want it to be something that coexists with men, that invites them into the dialogue.”
Norman believes that having a sense of humor about this subject doesn’t condone or dismiss objectification, but rather combats and calls attention to it. For instance, the brand features a bright green T-shirt with a tiger on it that reads “no catcalls.” Most of the designs come in bright “highlighter” colors that direct the attention of the gaze and forces people to reckon with objectification. Norman asked me to be apart of her photoshoot for modeling the designs this past Sunday. Several local women came together at Fire Salon on Elm, to get hair and makeup done for the shoot at HQ in downtown Greensboro. I chose to model the “Year of the B*tch” design because I thought it was clever to reclaim a word describing bossy and powerful women while emphasizing that 2018 is (according to Chinese Zodiac) the year of the dog. Hensel said her favorite design of the brand is the “objectify this” shirt that has a brain on the chest of the shirt.
“The project speaks to me because it allows women to express themselves all along the spectrum that modern feminism encompasses,” Hensel wrote in a text message. “Our core values of inclusivity, being responsive to trends in women’s lives and a focus on helping change the narrative.”
Norman said most of her merchandise is sustainably sourced because it is made-on-demand and with vegan leathers.
“Feminists are much less than a caricature that people make them out to be,” she said. “They care about the environment, they care about social justice issues, they care about animal rights, and if possible, I would like the brand to encompass all of that and not make it a question of sacrificing on one value or another when you shop.”
To learn more about Say It With Oliveoil, check out the website (www.sayitwitholiveoil.com) and social media pages (Instagram @oliveoilbrand and Facebook @sayitwitholiveoil).
Katie Murawski is the editor of YES! Weekly. She is from Mooresville, North Carolina and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in film studies from Appalachian State University in 2017.