Traci Effinger: an accomplished Pipeline charger | Photo: Effinger Archive

March is Women's History month, so I took a minute to myself to sit down and think about why women are given a month out of the year to pay respect to.

I, myself, don't often reflect and consider myself to be oppressed, probably due to white privilege.

So I decided to do a little research and better understand the history of women's oppression and where it currently is today.

Let's start with the political oppression that women have faced in our history books.

1828 was the first year that non-property-holding white males were allowed to vote in the vast majority of states.

Nearly 100 years later, women were added the right to vote in the passage of the 19th amendment.

However, the women's suffrage movement still limited women's roles in politics to the appearance-making spouse of a political candidate.

And if a woman did somehow work hard enough to enter the political system at that time, they then had to adhere to the rules and culture of a male-dominated political setting.

Currently, women are still greatly outnumbered on the Supreme Court and in the U.S. Congress, and these political groups have failed to pass an Equal Rights Amendment for more than 85 years.

The historical status of women as private property, and their unequal relationship to men in the family, is what first created oppression for women.

In the majority of human history, women were not always oppressed. In some old communal societies, women were equal to men, and in some instances, matriarchal societies existed.

In these societies, men were not oppressed by women, but women were socially and culturally important to the family and community. This was not based on the man's role dictating the role that the woman should play in those settings.

Matriarchal and Patriarchal Societies

Currently, there still are some Matriarchal societies thriving in the world.

For example, the Mosuo women are an isolated ethnic group in China that maintain a matriarchal society.

A study shows that these women are happier and healthier than their female counterparts living in a patriarchal society.

Evidence suggests that the results of the study are due to women having increased autonomy and powerful social support within their community (Hendrix, 2022).

Conversely, one would think that a Patriarchal society would provide similar health benefits to the men in that society.

So, since most of the world is living in a patriarchal society, most of the world's men are benefiting from the extreme health benefits that come from this society while the women are not.

Although the division of labor and social roles that men and women fulfilled were different, the division of labor was not based on a system of inferiority or superiority.

When private property emerged, and therefore class society, then the oppression of women emerged as well.

Since that time, multiple types of oppression have faced women in the forms of class society, including slavery, feudalism, and capitalism.

Legislation upholding the status of women as property still exists today.

The laws that place boundaries on their bodies and sexuality limit the self-determination of women.

Most states give women reproductive rights, like abortion and birth control.

However, these rights are still restricted to many women and sometimes cannot be obtained due to financial burdens in low-income or poor families.

Generations of women have fought for these rights and are now currently under attack by legislation being passed in some states.

This is another example of how women are not out of the ditch that we had historically been building stairs to climb out of.

Currently, on average, women are making 30 percent less than what men are making make for the same hours, job, and skill level.

This is economic discrimination, and it is currently just one part of the systematic oppression of women (Women's Oppression, 2022).

In the past, the labor of women has gone without value, and it has been taken advantage of by unsafe and unregulated working conditions; the lesser or non-payment of work; the non-payment for domestic work that is tedious and valuable; and being forced to forfeit all wages to that woman's father or spouse.

This is considered a "glass ceiling," which limits the possibility of a woman moving upwards in the workforce by trapping them in low-wage jobs or non-paying positions coupled with economic dependence on men or being forced into relying on a sexist system for economic help (Women's Oppression, 2022).

Currently, the bulk of the poor population consists of women, and women are most affected by economic crises.

This is called the "feminization of poverty" (Women's Oppression, 2022).

Women's Pipeline Bodyboarding Championship: the 2022 event ran a full day of competition and did it with a majority of women event directors, women organizers, women sponsors, and women staff

Climbing Out of the Ditch

So now that I have made myself depressed and angry about how and why women have become stuck in this ditch of female oppression, I have decided to optimistically look at how my life is making changes towards this conundrum and creating additional steps to help women climb out of the ditch that they do not deserve to live in.

This brings me to the recent women's bodyboarding event that I helped direct on the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii.

Although small in the eyes of the masses, it was a large gain in the sport of women's bodyboarding.

Since 2019, women's bodyboarding has been forced to combine with the men's bodyboarding division if they want to compete at the prestigious Pipeline surf spot.

In December of 2020, Bill 10 was passed in the state of Hawaii, which introduced "surf equity."

This bill mandates that women are given equal amounts of time in surfing days on a permit when there are surf contests.

I ran into Betty Depolito (Banzai Betty) shooting the first-ever women's WSL surf contest at Pipeline and had a chat with her.

She mentioned to me that there was a women's bodyboarding contest coming up at Pipeline and to contact Carol Philips to find out more information.

Being that Pipeline is my passion and the surf break that I bodyboard the most at, this was confusing and exciting to me at the same time.

Why had I not heard anything about this event or seen any mentions of it anywhere on social media?

I found Carol on social media and messaged her immediately, inquiring about the event.

A couple of days later, I ran into Carol while getting coffee in the morning before work.

I asked her about the contest, and an immediate wave of sadness seemed to change her entire demeanor.

"I don't think it's gonna happen this year," she said with a sense of distress.

"What!? Why?!" I snapped back with a snarky sense of hostility.

"There are not enough girls," Carol said with a shrug of her shoulders.

"That's bull!" I said loudly and opinionated.

"I'll do it. I'll get you the girls! I can get 40 girls! For sure, at least 25! Let me help you. It's Pipeline! I know that if it's a woman's only event that we can get women to sign up for it."

Carol looked startled and took a step back.

"Okay," she said.

"You get the girls, and we've got a contest. I'll bring you on board. Here are the dates that we have the permit for the competition, and you need to contact the Permit holder too. Here's his number. This is gonna be a lot of work, so if you commit to helping, I'm in, and I'll help too."

See, Carol has been helping to put a Pipeline women's only bodyboarding contest through the North Shore Surf Girls and the Don and Josie Over foundation since back before I ever came to Hawaii or even knew how to bodyboard.

Carol is a North Shore legend, and she knew what obstacles she had to face to make the women's bodyboarding contest happen, and I had no idea.

Cease and Desist

Three weeks until the March 24 holding period start date, I made a few social media posts and gathered up a group of women who were interested in doing the competition.

The problem was that there was no actual confirmation of a so-called "Pipeline contest," and everyone was finding out for the first time that there was a permit that we could potentially use one day off for a women's only bodyboarding contest.

Half of the girls that wanted to come couldn't come due to the late notice.

The other half wanted to know the exact details of the event, which I could not release because I had received a "Cease and Desist" type of text from the permit holder after my first social media post.

You see, the permit holder had been getting copies of my social media post sent to him by various male bodyboarders that were wondering what was going on because they had not yet been notified of a bodyboarding contest either.

After speaking with the permit holder and clarifying my role to gather the women as directed by Carol, I was told not to make any further public announcements that there would be a confirmed event occurring and that the entire contest was all up in the air.

This wasn't the permit holder's fault, he actually is a very hard-working and nice man, but it was because we were in a pandemic, and surf contests had just started to begin to run again in Hawaii.

There were extra rules and regulations that needed to be complied with prior to even being allowed to run the contest, so everything had been put on hold.

After ironing out the wrinkles in my relationship with the permit holder and my role in the group as an assistant event director, the permit holder, Carol, and myself, talked almost every day for hours, collaborating on different rules or regulations that needed to be met to run the event.

These included sponsors to help finance the event ($7,200 a day), judges, Covid protocol, volunteers to work, water safety, artwork for the event, Hawaii Police Department staff, prizes, competition format layout, etc.

I must have worked at least 2 hours a day on this project, every single day, in addition to my career and the other hats I wear.

Meanwhile, the girls in my chatroom that were graciously waiting for the final call of whether there would be a competition or not were dropping out like flies on wanting to compete in the competition.

We were approached by the Association of Professional Bodyboarders (APB) to try to help us create an expression session with online judging based on media capture.

Bodyboarding: women are making history at Pipeline | Photo: Depolito


We were given the opportunity to take a package deal in which we could hand the torch to someone else, and they would pay for everything based on the entry fee money, and we wouldn't have to do any work.

In order to choose this format, we were told that the women could either combine with the men and share the one day or that if we had 40 women participants, we could have enough money from entry fees to finance our own day.

With only 25 women in my chatroom of possible unconfirmed competitors, I knew that there was no possibility that we would be able to get 40 women with only two weeks away.

I did like the option of having a backup plan that someone else would take full responsibility for, so I mentioned this to Carol after the meeting.

"The women need a platform, and the women need competition so that a champion can be crowned."

Carol said in a distraught tone.

"A contest platform gives girls someone to look up to. Something that girls need in order to stay active and healthy, so that they continue to bodyboard and to try and be the best. And so that one day, they can be a champion too."

I paused for a minute to grasp the idea of how powerful Carol's statement was.

"The heck with it," she said while interrupting my thoughts.

"The men aren't gonna take away the day of women's bodyboarding from us again. I'm paying for the event with my own money. If we can get some of it back, great, but I'm just gonna pay for it out-of-pocket until we do."

Carol was on board and passionate now, consuming three times as many hours as myself, being devoted towards the competition and making it work.

At two weeks in, I finally got the approval from the permit holder that I could announce to the girls that they could enter and had them register on a LiveHeats website.

We still continued to collaborate every day and slowly began to bring people in to help assist with the event coordination.

By contest day, I was sleep-deprived, mentally exhausted, stressed, and overwhelmed because of the contest, in addition to my career and personal life.

The 2022 Women's Pipeline Bodyboarding Championship ran on February 28 in perfect 3-5-foot Hawaiian waves.

We had women from Brazil, Australia, Uruguay, Japan, Chile, the USA, and Hawaii compete.

We had world champions, country champions, women who had never competed before, and the youngest woman bodyboarder competitor ever to compete at Pipeline.

We ran a full day of competition and did it with a majority of women event directors, women organizers, women sponsors, and women staff; creating a culture in which the women were relying on each other for help, instead of depending or relying on men to create and adopt a women's bodyboarding contest for them.

I didn't win the Pipeline contest as a competitor this year, but I did win a step to help create a ladder for women's bodyboarding at Pipeline.

What will you do?

Words by Traci Effinger | Professional Hawaiian Bodyboarder

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