In the 1800s, female authors, including the three Brontë sisters and Louisa May Alcott, sometimes published under male pseudonyms. But, that was a long time ago, and of course women are no longer encouraged to take on male nom de plumes. Right? In 1997, Joann Rowling, author of the Harry Potter book series, was told by Bloomsbury to publish under the gender-ambiguous pseudonym, J.K. Rowling. (She later purposely used a pseudonym for anonymity). This does happen, and gender equity in the arts remains an issue.
It’s easy to count many more male bylines than female, though the gap is narrowing. It’s important to recognize that gender equality is not yet present when it comes to the arts. No matter one’s gender, there needs to be parity in the arts, and everywhere else (not pointing any fingers). Right now, that’s not happening.
In Dallas, the literary scene continues to grow and thrive, but what about women in the arts, specifically? Wild Detectives owners Paco Vique and Javier García del Moral teamed up with with arts and culture writer Lauren Smart (former arts editor for the Dallas Observer) for Women Galore, a monthlong festival at the Oak Cliff bookstore and coffee shop. You’ll find almost daily events at Wild Detectives throughout May, all featuring creative women in the arts.
Smart says the owners of the bookstore reached out to her when they recognized a deficit in the number of women they had booked for appearances in the past months. “[They] realized they have the same problem that a lot of other people in the literary world have, which is that they don’t have an equitable number of male to female author readings,” she says.
So she agreed to help, and Women Galore was born. Smart wanted to prove just how easy it would be to book enough women — playwrights, authors, and more — to fill the month of May. She says this is the busiest month the Wild Detectives have ever had.
“I think it’s been fascinating,” Smart says. “It’s a reminder that there are all of these women ready and excited about putting work into the world, and it doesn’t take much to look for them…It just takes, you know, like one phone call.”
The festival’s name, Women Galore, is inspired by Ian Fleming’s need-no-man character Pussy Galore, from the James Bond Goldfinger novel and its 1964 film adaptation. Smart originally hoped to call the entire festival Pussy Galore, but the name was changed to Women Galore because of the degrading associations that are sometimes attached to the word “pussy.” (One of the events is still called Pussy Galore, however). Smart says the name was originally chosen because of its “fun and provocative” nature, but even more, because picking that name created an opportunity to expand the female vernacular—the way women talk about themselves.
“That word was taken over, frankly, by sexist men, and used in a way to talk about women negatively. For me it was like, ‘let’s take this word back,'” Smart says.
There is an “opportunity right now to negotiate language,” and Smart saw the title “Pussy Galore” as a way to steal back of a word that has been construed as offensive, being part of a language of objectification of women.
Women Galore’s goal is to create a space for women who love words, where they can share their work and be truly appreciated. “If anything, it’s just to bring awareness to the amazing women who are doing amazing work,” Smart says. In Dallas, specifically, men tend to get the headlining plays at the theaters, and men are the ones who get more attention in the literary scene. “That is fortunately changing in the last couple years.”
It’s events like Women Galore that make these changes possible.
As for the future of the festival, Smart is excited about the prospect of continuing Women Galore as an annual festival at The Wild Detectives, but she hopes there won’t be a need.
“Ultimately, the hope would be that something like this isn’t necessary,” she says. “Hopefully, there will come a time in society where we go, ‘Oh no, now we have to add more men.'”
The festival is set to include many female artists from Dallas and beyond. The events feature quite a mix of wordy women—including authors and poets, playwrights, and even 11-year-old comedienne Saffy Herndon.
Be sure to check out the full festival schedule here, and get ready for some girl power at The Wild Detectives.