Meet the Ovarian Psycos: women of color building a movement on bikes

A day after President Barack Obama speaks at South by SouthWest the tech and media festival will premiere a documentary about an all women of color bicycle brigade that pushes to break every norm in mainstream feminism.

The film follows the Ovarian Psycos Brigade of Los Angeles, a group of women on bicycles who have been known to ride in and around the streets where women have recently been killed. The women, who call themselves Ovas, ride the streets at night together to let the community know they stand together without fear. Their motto is “ovaries so big we don’t need no balls.”

“We fight back against femicide, rape, the normalization of our disposability, [and] the war being played out upon our spaces,” said Xela de la X, the founder of the Ovarian Psycos.

The Ovas come from working class communities in North and East L.A., short rides over bridges and wide main streets connect their neighborhoods to the downtown area. De La X says she comes from “the gutter grime of Los Angeles” and when I asked if she identified as a Chicana she said she was HAF (Hood-As-Fuk), IndigeQueer, a transnational feminist and a Chicana—which she prefers to spell with an X, Xicana.

The neighborhood known as Boyle Heights, where some of the Ovas live, has one of the highest densities of residents per square mile in Los Angeles. Close to 82% of the residents have Mexican roots, according to Census data. But the neighborhood is quickly changing. It has been dubbed a “gentrification hotspot” where homes are sold after multiple bids just days after going on sale.

12778870_1066885403355248_772773652845572887_oMichael Raines/Ovarian Psycos

“Coming from working-class, under-resourced communities, we fight back against gentrification, the war that threatens our access and mobility, as we fight against deportation and detention centers,” de la X told Fusion. She says living under these conditions can make women go psycho, which is how the group got its name Ovarian Psycos.

“To normalize these conditions is insane,” de La X said. But she says riding with a group of women on bikes “literally feels like we can win the war, the war played out upon our bodies.”

Those that have seen the Ovas ride down a street together describe it as powerful sight—a “sea of women.” In Los Angeles less than 1 in 5 bicyclists is female so it’s even more powerful when you see a group of women of color cycling down the street. Many of the women cover their faces with bandanas that have white fallopian tubes printed on black fabric.

The Ovas range in age but they’re all relatively young, politicized and outspoken. They are a documentary filmmaker’s dream. But when two white filmmakers approached the Ovarian Psycos about the possibility of making a film, the women were apprehensive.

“Xela made it very clear that she would have preferred a woman of color or a women from East Los Angeles to make this film,” Kate Trumbull-LaValle, one of the co-directors of the documentary Ovarian Psycos, told Fusion.

Trumbull-LaValle and co-director Joanna Sokolowski say they were drawn to the boldness of the Ovas’ politics, “their brazen approach to feminism and unapologetic aesthetic.”

Now after four years of working together, the filmmakers and say they’re still building trust with the Ovas to this day.

“They checked us, challenged us and asked us questions about our intentions over the course of the four years,” said Trumbull-LaValle. The Ovas worried they would be cast in reality TV-like roles that create over dramatic storylines.

Xela de la X pictured with her daughter Yoli.Michael Raines/Ovarian Psycos

Xela de la X pictured with her daughter Yoli.

Xela de la X, the founder of the Ovarian Psycos, says the group ultimately “recognized the importance of the [documentary] and how we could potentially utilize the film to create pathways or bike paths to link with others around the world and hopefully even incite at the very least an awareness of our commonalities.”

The latest conversation the Ovas are having is about the irony that the film is premiering at South by Southwest in Austin, ground zero for some of the most rampant gentrification in the country.

De la X along with two other Ovas will be attending the film’s premiere in Austin on Saturday. They say they’re having conversations with locals about their work to fight gentrification.

Nothing coolerMichael Raines/Ovarian Psycos

In the end, De la X says she’s glad the group agreed to be featured in the documentary.

“Regardless of the fact that these womxn are not from our hood and are white, I feel blessed that they were able to see the worth in the work that we do,” said de la X.

Ovarian Psycos premieres this Saturday in Austin.