From the start, Maiden sets a scene portraying the power of the ocean, the power of a sailor and the power of the media. Directed by Alex Holmes, this documentary features the first ever exclusively female sailing team in the Whitbread Around the World Yacht Race in 1989, a gruelling nine-month voyage, as told by the team themselves.
The team of young women was led by Tracy Edwards, a sailor whose only experience was cooking on a yacht at the previous race. The documentary shows that Tracy led the team through not only the race but the financing, the media opposition and stereotyping; her story sets an empowering example of what people can achieve. The women on the boat are not necessarily pretty and they are not coy—they are strong, determined, passionate, exhilarated, and openly flawed.
The story is told through a very well-constructed plot. The entire team tell their side of the tale, which provides the human interest that most documentaries don’t. We see the emotional journey divulged, as well as the physical endurance it took to succeed in their goals. With footage of the event’s significant moments, we get a greater understanding of the strenuous conditions the women were under to stay alive, and the responsibility that Tracy felt in keeping them alive. The archived footage also gives us, a modern-day audience, a greater understanding of the media’s role in representing them—I’m sure no other teams got asked about how they were going to pack their waterproof mascara and chapstick.
This is an inspiring movie to see this women’s history month, or indeed any month, to give motivation to those who feel they don’t fit the mould (let’s be honest, all of us feel that way sometimes). The media that covered their journey at the time were convinced of the ‘weak women’ stereotype. Journalists and TV show hosts taunt clichés at them, with no other expectations except for extraordinary failure. It is through these interactions Maiden proves why women’s history month is required; the standards were, and continue to be, set too low for women to be taken seriously in their journey—purely because they are women. Brought to the modern eye, Tracy’s success shows how challenging to overcome the perceived power difference between men and women is, and how that power difference has infiltrated society. If the vernacular of sexism is clear to us now, though it was considered normal then, imagine what intricacies we as readers today miss in gender stereotyping that people will be horrified at tomorrow.
This story diversifies the image that sets expectations for developing women. This documentary deserves much more attention; it’s a good start to a concept that should be explored further—providing the full spectrum of what it means to be a successful woman.
Maiden was part of this year’s Perth Festival.