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Zoe Durnford, one of the two co-directors of Hollaback! Birmingham was recently interviewed by the Hollaback! mothership in New York. For the original article please click here.
Meet Zoe, the environmental advocate fighting street harassment in Birmingham, UK.
Why do you HOLLA? I HOLLA because I’m sick of half the population being objectified and harassed in every sphere of their lives. Because street harassment is totally accepted and hardly ever confronted. Because this needs to change!!
What’s your signature Hollaback? Leave me alone. Go away. Occasionally fuck off – but I wouldn’t recommend this!
What’s your craft? I’m currently working for a small development NGO/charity in Chintsa, South Africa for the next few months – but still running Hollaback Birmingham and will be back! I plan to spend my life working within the women’s rights arena.
HOLLAfact about your city: Birmingham has more canals then Venice! Also despite being the second largest city in the UK, it has no rape crisis center.
What was your first experience with street harassment? Probably when I was about 13 years old walking to the local shop with my friend. A large group of boys, between about 10-20 years old, starting cat calling and shouting: ‘hey gorgeous, oi sexy, suck my cock, come on give me a bit of head, stuck up bitch.’ I just ignored them and walked away quickly. They proceeded to get louder and more abusive, and finally started throwing glass bottles, they all smashed pretty close to us but luckily none of them hit us!
Define your style: I basically dress like I’m constantly at a music festival. Think summery dresses and shorts no matter the weather (just add tights!). I struggle to dress smart and I never wear trousers!
What do you collect? Passport stamps and bunting!
My superheroine power is… surviving on very little money!
Say you’re Queen for the day. What would you do to end street harassment? I think that the key is education and awareness. I would definitely make feminist issues, including street harassment, part of the curriculum in schools. Boys need to learn from an early age that this is not acceptable and not a route they need to go down to live up ideals about masculinity. Girls need to understand that their value does not lie in their perceived attractiveness and that harassment is not acceptable and never their fault.
In turn, the general public needs to be made aware of what a big problem street harassment is and how it makes women feel. I would start an advert campaign on the T.V, radio, billboards, and every other medium possible to highlight the issue and to open up a dialogue about street harassment.
If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? The world’s resources aren’t infinite and are going to run out. Climate change is real. We need to wake up and realize that we are destroying the planet before it’s too late, and it very nearly is.
In the year 2020, street harassment … will be recognized as a totally unacceptable form of gender based violence.
What inspires you? People who risk their lives and reputation for what they believe in, who fight for an ethical right despite threats, bribes and social/political pressure. Who believe the cause they fight for is more important than their own individual experience. The fact that nothing has ever changed without people taking a personal responsibility to push for it and that we are all capable of making a difference. In the words of Margaret Mead ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’
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