In an interview for Go Aragón, María Frisa told us that the crime novel is the most macho genre that exists. You were the first and only woman to win the Hammett Prize awarded by the Semana Negra de Gijón for Las niñas perdidas (2011). Breaking stereotypes.
The crime novel is deeply sexist, but I think that almost all novels up to a certain point have been sexist. At the moment more women’s literature is being published, but everything in literature is sexist: the publishers are sexist, the prizes are sexist… there are no female winners in the Hammett Prize but in the National Narrative Prize, in the Essay Prize there are very few… Literature is a sexist construction in general. Then there are clearly sexist genres because there are only men, like the noir novel in literature, or the war or western in cinema. There are only men, alcoholic men, policemen… and women are the femme fatale, the stunning blonde who is either an alcoholic or a whore.
Why isn’t it getting better?
Something is improving, from a few years ago there are many more women writing in all genres and above all more publishers have decided to publish women. We have to rescue the women who were published now because they have been forgotten in the history of books. In any case, there is an inertia: publishers are men, juries are mostly men, so men are awarded prizes and few women are read. For many years it was believed that there was a so-called women’s literature, a literature for women that was made up of romantic novels, and that did a lot of damage.
Most of the time it was written by men.
Yes, of course, many times. The last Planeta Prize was written by three men under the name of a woman.
In general, is there a lack of participation and representation of women in public life?
Yes, in politics there is less and less because the demand for parity has made the parties get their act together and there is a greater participation of women in Congress and the Senate. In any case, it is a residual or false participation because in the big companies and in the boards of directors, which is what makes the country work, the presence of women is anecdotal, there are practically none or they are there because they have to be. There is a problem not only of the presence of women, but also of where they are. I have been deputy director many times, deputy chief… but you never reach the top. There may be many women in a laboratory or in a newspaper, but they are hired as interns or at the bottom. If you look at all the newspapers we have, there are only two female editors. And so on. If you notice, the candidates for president of the government are men. The problem now is not the presence, it is that they do not reach the positions of responsibility.
And how does a political talk show hostess like you feel in a man’s world?
It is still thought that women have to be in the private sphere and those of us who move to the public sphere are mistreated in the way we dress. I have suffered death threats, persecutions in the street, some shoving, I have been spat at, they painted my door, they threatened to kill my children… Because I am Cristina Fallarás? No. This does not happen to women in general, because I have a public presence? Because there are many actresses who have a public presence and it doesn’t happen to them. It is because I participate politically in the public sphere. Women who participate politically in the public sphere, society punishes us in an overwhelming way and this makes you withdraw from some spaces. I left my Twitter account because I was attacked every minute of the day.
Do you know other women who suffer the same?
Last year more than 200 women with public presence belonging to the fields of culture, journalism, law, politics, etc; we signed a manifesto against sexist aggressions. We denounced constant aggressions and it was not because we were left-wingers, we were not all left-wingers, there were also right-wing women.
Going back to literature, but also to everyday narrative in general… Would the world be different if history were told by women?
Of course it would. The woman’s point of view is different. There is no narrative created by women. Now a very interesting literature is appearing that looks at the world from a woman’s point of view and describes women’s interests and concerns. It is difficult for a woman to write a western or a war or combat novel. When I wrote The Gospel According to Mary Magdalene, which is the last novel I published, what I was doing was reading the New Testament from a woman’s point of view. And it changes everything, of course.
Why did you choose her to be the voice?
I thought about the western and I thought that it’s the foundational genre of American culture, and it’s only about men. There are no mothers, pregnant women, children, the elderly, they don’t eat, they don’t wash… everything that belongs to the realm of women which is childbirth, childhood, education, elderly care, hygiene and food disappear from the male narratives. It is a problem because there is no female representation. I chose the Magdalene because I thought: What is the foundational narrative of the world in which we live? The Gospels, without a doubt. Whether you are Catholic or not, whether you are Christian or not, Western formation comes from the Gospels. I chose the Gospel of St. Mark, which is the one that interested me the most, and I decided to narrate it from the point of view of a woman, and the most important woman in the Gospel is undoubtedly Magdalene, who accompanies Christ throughout the Gospel.
Pope Francis was the first Pope to dignify her and placed her above the apostles. Was it about time?
To her, yes, because some papers appeared that showed that she had been a very important woman and the Church for not staying in balls and as the only one who continues to call her a whore while science actually proves otherwise… they had to catch up. But Pope Francis, like all popes, is sexist. The Church is an economic and savage, oppressive and criminal construct that is made up only of men.
Do you know if your book is bought more by women or men?
All books are bought by more women than men. More than 60% of book purchases are by women. There is a greater cultural interest, we go to soccer less.
What other women are inspirational to you or deserve a book because of the leadership they exercise or have exercised?
I am writing a book about Juana La Loca. And I’d be interested in writing a book about all those mothers they call kidnappers today who are condemned because they save their children from parental abuse because the judges give the fathers the possibility of keeping the children several days a week. I’m thinking of writing about the heroines that the system punishes.
You have been included in several lists of the most influential women together with models, singers, businesswomen, actresses, politicians… and Queen Letizia. Does it help you to claim equality?
I confess that I don’t take them into account. But I do have relevance or influence in feminism in this country.
So influential that you have been awarded for your initiative #Cuéntalo, which became a global movement. How was it born?
That was a very big thing. It was a hastag that I created and ten days later three million women from 16 different countries had participated. It was a revolution. I published it so that women could tell in first person about the violence they had suffered, and now we must go for 100 million, because it is uncountable. It is proof, first, that women do not lie and, second, that we had not been allowed to tell it at any other time.
It was the time of #MeToo and the boom of social networks to express this type of abuse. Do you think that even today we are still shy to publicly denounce these situations or even that women are not clear about what is a sexist aggression?
I do, but many women are still not clear about it. Of course they are embarrassed and absolutely all women feel aggressions. The other day an elderly lady in a discussion told me that she had never suffered an aggression. The simple fact that a mother feels atrocious fear when her 15-year-old daughter comes home late is violence. You don’t need to be beaten, violence is in pure existence. It is violence that we are forced to be thin or to a certain type of aesthetics, footwear. We spend our lives on a diet and I see all the men my age with bellies while we have been subjected to brutality, to damaging our bodies or undergoing surgeries. These are such small things that we don’t realize. But there is starting to be a small change.
There is a generation that is not so aware of this change.
There are many girls who don’t mind their boyfriend asking them where they are going, who they are with, etc … It is very difficult for them to be aware because men don’t assume it. If a guy asks you where you’re going, who you’re with, or writes you a Whatsapp when you’re with your friends asking how they’re doing … these are subtle things. That “how are you doing” is a way of intruding into your private life and imposing his presence. There are many very subtle ways of violence.
Although it is more visible, male violence continues to increase, and it is not as if the means have improved considerably.
Violence has not decreased because it has not even changed. We have narrated our violence one by one. And nothing has happened. If I were the men, I would have taken to the streets, because they have a very big problem, we are talking about the violence they perpetrate. If I were them I would take to the streets, because they have a very big problem, they turn us into victims. They participate in a violence that belongs to their sphere.
Going back to your relationship with Aragon and Zaragoza, where you come from… Recommend us a tourist plan for Aragon.
Walking and traveling around Aragon. When I walk around the city of Zaragoza, I feel comforted by the place where I belong and where I was born. Aragon, beyond the ski slopes and the Pyrenees, is a magnificent place. The Cinco Villas, Teruel in general, its small villages, the Mudejar… Aragon is not a well-known community and if it were discovered, people would fall in love with it in a big way. It has the honesty of the areas that have not been modified in a big way. If there started to be tourism of the current kind, the respectful kind, Aragon would become one of the great centers of Spain.
A bookstore in Zaragoza?
I can’t choose just one. The booksellers in Zaragoza are some of the most professional I know, they know the books they are talking about and they know how to recommend them. In other big cities this does not happen. From here I want to demand more support for writers, bookstores and fairs.
A cultural plan?
I would go through the Casco Viejo of the three capitals in its entirety, street by street, that for me is culture. You enter to have a tapa, you speak with the waiter, you see how people live, you see a historical building in front of you, its restoration… You are interested in the artists authors of each place, architects, writers… that says a lot about the city. There is one thing that interests you, which is to go to the city’s public library and universities. I love that.