Sandra Sabatés: "The first two sentences of 'the herd' failed us all"
Sandra Sabatés (Granollers, 1979) presents every night, between Monday and Thursday, one of the most watched television programs, El Intermedio. Between current affairs and humor, Sabatés carries the informative weight of the program and her work has earned her important recognition: in 2018 she received the Ondas Award for best television presenter, in addition to other awards, such as the Meninas Award or the CIMA TV Award of the Victorian Festival. The journalist has made equality and feminism one of her flags, in the program, on her social networks and also in her books.
Sabatés has just published Don't tell me stories (Editorial Planeta), a book in which, based on traditional stories, she narrates the true stories of several women who have suffered different forms of sexist violence. Rape, chemical submission, abuse by a father, trafficking for sexual exploitation, genital mutilation... The Little Red Riding Hoods, Sleeping Beauties and Snow White in this book have real names, but their identities are hidden behind the names of the protagonists to protect your anonymity.
The story you choose to start your book is Little Red Riding Hood, why?
It's one of my favorite stories, and you don't have the same vision when you're told it as a child as when you grow up and read it with a different look. There you think that what they were telling you was actually a rape. Like Little Red Riding Hood, other stories hide a story that is much more perverse. The idea of the book is that we stop naturalizing this violence. We have changed many things, we no longer want to be princesses, women have other personal and professional aspirations, but gender violence is still there, it is still part of our reality today.
It precisely uses the story of Little Red Riding Hood to tell the story of the girl who was raped by 'the herd'. Is it the case that has marked a turning point in our country when it comes to talking about sexual violence and broadening the social vision of sexist violence?
Undoubtedly. It is a very mediatic case, of which we have spoken a lot. In the book, something that all the protagonists emphasize is to send the message of the importance of denouncing, so that they can be helped and to be aware of what is happening and fight against this sexist violence. It was very important when people came out in a storm to the street to ask that the focus not be on the victim and that we all feel protected. Those first two sentences of 'the herd' failed us all. We were aware that it had happened to her but that it could have happened to any of us. And then there is the responsibility of the media. In some cases, the victim felt very questioned, or she saw that the lawyers of the accused were given a lot of voice and her speech was legitimized in some way, although she also felt very supported, there were those two faces.
She talks about the role of the media, which has also been an area in which citizens have demanded changes in recent years so that they put aside clichés and stereotypes and apply the gender perspective. Have the media lived up to that moment and that social demand?
Yes, we have to do a lot of self-criticism and improve a lot. We have seen both sides: on the one hand, debates were opened that questioned the victim and tried to discredit her and the version of the aggressors was given a voice through her lawyer. And then the opposite face, that of empathizing with the victim, that 'I do believe you'. At a general level I think we are taking steps, although they are slow. In some way, I do think that we are more aware when it comes to introducing this gender perspective, it shows that we take more care of language, there is more presence of women, also in decision-making positions, we resort more to experts... We also know that the achievements of women's rights are slow and cost a lot, hence the importance of defending them, because we know that they are difficult to achieve and very easy to snatch.
In one of the stories he mentions Pamela Palenciano, who has been denounced by ultra groups for her monologue 'Not only blows hurt'. It is a paradigmatic case of how attacks against many feminists are taking place. Legal harassment or harassment and attacks on networks are some of the strategies. As a publicly exposed journalist committed to feminism, do you suffer from this harassment?
In the networks is where it is most noticeable. You become a target and you see how these attacks proliferate, in recent times more and more. Whenever we broadcast one of our 'Woman had to be' interviews, the insults begin, all kinds of expletives, attacks, constant denial. It is those denialist speeches that the extreme right is constantly insisting on. In recent times, I have noticed that these types of messages have grown exponentially, messages that are also full of hate that spreads and is very dangerous.
Do you think then that the arrival of the extreme right to the institutions has increased this climate of harassment and confrontation?
We are in a moment of extreme polarization and instead of opting for dialogue, we opt for confrontation, for confrontation, you are with me or against me, that constant 'go for them'. It is a discourse that permeates based on repeating arguments that are totally false. It is an attempt to intimidate as well; what you have to try is that they don't get it. What worries me is that these discourses also permeate the most vulnerable age groups. When you look at the data and you see that the number of young boys who believe that sexist violence is an ideological invention is growing... Hence the book, it is a 'don't tell us stories', this is the reality that today women continue to live in our country.
One of the 'peaks of the table' –those moments where he sits at the table of the program to launch small speeches on key issues– he dedicated to the conflict over the approval of the trans law. He defended that the important thing was that the rules came out and not who carried them out. How does he position himself in the conflict that has been opened in this regard?
I believe that feminism fights for equality and we are talking about human rights. Feminism is transversal, it includes different ways of interpreting it and all of them are valid, and the objective is to continue taking steps towards equality. There will be things in which we agree more than in others, the important thing is to move forward united in the things in which they agree and in the things in which there is not so much agreement or there is controversy, being able to talk about it and listen other postures. I am not an expert in anything nor do I have the absolute truth about anything, so listening to ways of understanding that are different from mine can also help me a lot and can enrich us. I consider feminism to be a transversal and inclusive movement. We are at the tail of Europe in the legal recognition of gender. The fundamental thing in any chaos is dialogue, fleeing from gratuitous attack. Talking is what allows us to reach meeting points and understanding the other is something basic to continue advancing. Fighting only gets noise and gets nowhere.
To finish I want to ask you about the subject of the image and television. There is a criticism towards the media, advertising, cinema... about the models of beauty and the body canons that they tend to reproduce, but there is also a perverse idea that makes many of the journalists who work on television feel questioned because it seems that they are there to be beautiful. How do we make criticism of this normativity that continues to be reproduced compatible with not falling into arguments that invalidate his experience and talent?
I receive many comments in this regard. Comments that appeal to your physique, that is why you are there, in the line of discrediting or discrediting, without taking into account your ability, your talent, the way you do your job. I remember just winning the Ondas and receiving messages like that, it didn't matter if I had an Ondas, I was judged on whether I was more beautiful or less beautiful.
We have vindicated a lot the gray hairs of women on television, I think more and more, and that we want to celebrate our birthday and continue working in image, why not. We also come from a tradition in which that was played, a male presenter with a girl who was there to accompany and that's it. The role of women in the media has changed a lot, although the changes are very slow, so we must continue to insist on these messages.