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© Michael Raines, Ovarian Psycos Documentary
© Michael Raines, Ovarian Psycos Documentary

The Ovarian Psycos Rep Feminism In East LA

Picture of Brenda Garcia Davidge
Updated: 30 December 2016
As the Los Angeles sun starts to set on the eve of a full moon, the Ovarian Psycos Bicycle Brigade is preparing to ride out. Fifty or so women come together for the Luna Ride, a monthly full moon ride around the neighborhoods that make up East Los Angeles. Hailing predominantly from communities that make up East LA and wearing bandanas with imagery of a uterus and fallopian tubes, this collective of women are not only flexing their feminism, but they are also taking back space dominated by cars and masculinity.

Ovarian Psycos |© Brenda Davidge

Ovarian Psycos | © Brenda Davidge

The Ovas, as they are lovingly referred to, originated in 2010 as a group of women who wanted to encourage other women to ride bicycles and increase physical activity, promote friendship and sisterhood, thus, creating an empowering space for women of East LA to step out of their comfort zones. Founded by Xela de la X, a Los Angeles community activist and musician, the Ovarian Psycos have grown from a small group of 20 to several hundred. This powerhouse collective has also successfully created an autonomous community center in Boyle Heights. La Concha, as it is known, holds weekly workshops, a women’s self-defense class, an eating disorder support group, and martial arts classes for the children of the community. And more importantly, no one is ever turned away for lack of funds.

This collective of women centers its work around community and family. In the fall of 2015, teens Briana Nicole Gallegos and Gabriela Calzada were killed and their bodies dumped in Ernest E. Debs Regional Park in Montecito Heights. While not members of the Ovas, the deaths of these women reverberated across the community. The Ovas led a bike ride and vigil in their honor with the purpose of healing and addressing the issues of gendered violence by utilizing community-led solutions because as they stated, ‘An injury to one is an injury to us all.’

The most current Luna Ride, on April 22, was in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. They honored those who have been affected or suffered a sexual assault as well as offered resources and a safe space for women to speak freely about these topics that otherwise may be difficult to do within their culture or family. It is precisely these types of events that make the Ovas so dynamic. They pride themselves on their feminisms and cultural backgrounds. This intersectionality is what sets them apart. Their stickers proudly state, ‘Ovaries so big, we don’t need no fucking balls.’ And it’s no coincidence that the all-women Luna Rides are planned to occur monthly, to mirror a woman’s menstrual cycle. The women-centered rides often will include a workshop on bike safety or a discussion on topics ranging from street harassment to Chican@ history.

This year will mark the 5th Annual Clitoral Mass, one of the largest female bike rides in Los Angeles. It was created by the Ovas in 2012 and is now a nationally recognized event promoting awareness of local and national women’s issues in several cities: Oakland, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and Toronto. Last year’s Los Angeles 2015 Clitoral Mass began with a blessing of the bikes and a bike safety presentation at Olvera Street. Along the route, riders were encouraged to participate at the many pit stops of informational sessions, live entertainment, and to connect with the other riders. This year’s Clitoral Mass will no doubt be empowering and equally unforgettable.

The Ovas are also the subject of a new documentary that premiered at SXSW this year, titled Ovarian Psycos. Filmmakers Joanna Sokolowski and Kate Trumbull-LaValle explore the significance between bicycles and the women that make up the group, the gentrification of the neighborhoods most of these women live in and follows the lives of a few key women in the group, mainly Xela de la X. The film examines the freedom of mobility that a bicycle brings to these women both literally and figuratively.

For the Ovas, the personal is political as they ride to raise consciousness around issues of identity, domestic violence, gendered norms, community, and gentrification. They are in your face and unapologetic – and why should they be?