On Thursday, Nov. 29, the University of Maine’s Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department, along with the Rising Tide Center, screened the documentary “From the Second Wave to the Tidal Wave” from director and activist Pam Maus.
The film depicts the stories of three women and their experiences with second-wave feminism, a movement which began in 1960. Maus explored how their experiences could be related to today’s current societal and cultural issues regarding women.
Maus has an unorthodox route to documentary filmmaking. After receiving a masters degree in counseling, she explored a variety of pursuits ranging from working for the 1992 Bill Clinton presidential campaign, working as a private chef in the South of France, stints at the Harvard Business School and owning a bed and breakfast on the coast of Maine.
Being a documentarian is one of Maus’ newer passions. Even though she didn’t have much experience in filmmaking, it was her varied past that led her to pursue filmmaking as a form of storytelling. Her education in counseling has also informed her documentaries, as she finds it to be a process of inquiry into how people engage with issues in the world.
“I wanted women from different parts of the country with different experiences of the second wave,” Maus said, on finding subjects for her documentary.
The three women featured were from various areas of America, with vastly different understandings of the feminist movement that came about in the 1960s. The documentary told the stories of women’s experiences in college, like that of Arkansas State Senator Joyce Elliott who was a subject of the film.
“I thought I’d be able to get a basketball scholarship … because I was a really good athlete. I did not know, no matter how good I was, women could not get scholarships,” Elliot said.
Using personal stories like this, Maus demonstrates that even across region, race and personal experiences many women were experiencing the same obstacles and poor treatment. The larger goal of Maus’ activism is to demonstrate that there is a further generational connection between women of the second wave before, and what she calls the “Tidal Wave” today, which is what she describes as the organized feminist response in the wake of the 2016 election.
“People knew so little about the second wave today. I wanted to put history in perspective [as we] finally had one of my contemporaries [Hillary Clinton] about to be president,” Maus said.
She found that there was a very important connection between Clinton’s 2016 campaign and the fact that Clinton experienced the rise of the second wave firsthand. She wanted to inform people on the enduring relevance of the feminist progress made in the 1960s and 1970s.
A Q&A was hosted after the screening between the director and the audience. The discussion after the documentary allowed the audience, which was made up of college students and community members, to describe their experiences and pose their own thoughts and questions to Maus and others.
As an activist, Maus has been increasing her role working with groups like Midcoast Women to provide opportunities and strength for marginalized women through collaboration. Through this group’s storytelling events many women get a chance to use their voices and share their personal stories.
Maus has noticed the power of activist organizations like this and says that these groups are very different, but in the end, all work together in harmony. This is a possible thesis to her documentary work as well as how diverse women can be victims of injustices.
In spite of and in response to the problems women face, Maus had words of advice for the current generation of women.
“I want women to learn about advocating for themselves, not at the expense of everyone else, but just that women often tend to be last in relationships … [and] understand that you’re a whole person in addition to everything else that you’re doing,” Maus said.
Maus’ work can be found on her website pammaus.com and Midcoast Women can be reached at their website midcoastwomen.org as well as their Facebook Page.