CIFF 41 Film Review

Ovarian Psycos

Lisa Sanchez

‚ÄčApril 1, 2017

Ovarian Psycos opens with a dozen women on bicycles, their faces covered by Ovarian Psycos bandannas, raising their fists in resistance while riding through the streets of east Los Angeles. That scene showed the solidarity of the Ovarian Psycos community and the powerful female imagery they evoke, both as women of color, and as women choosing to take a public, non-violent stance against misogyny.

The documentary shows the roots of Ovarian Psycos as told through the stories of some of their members, including Xela, the founder of the Ovarian Psycos cycling group. Xela spoke about the need to create safe spaces for women, especially in east Los Angeles, and the toxic effects of misogyny and the post-colonized mind set of Latinx peoples living in the area.

Ovarian Psycos touched on a number of topics that were close to my heart, including feminism, the Brown Power movement that originated in Los Angeles and Boyle Heights, the area that the Ovarian Psycos originated from, punk rock, riot grrrl culture, and the DIY mindset. The Ovarian Psycos embody all of these factors, but throughout all of these positive influences, the members still live in a society that marginalizes them as brown women.

Violence is an every day part of women's lives. Whether it be intimate violence in a woman's home or violence that women experience in the public sphere, it is the reality of being a woman. These facts both motivate and devastate the members of the Ovarian Psycos as we follow their individual lives and their involvement with the group as a whole. 

As Xela says, many of the members of the Ovarian Psycos are survivors of trauma and the group touts itself as being a safe place for the outcasts, the women life has displaced or hurt. For these reasons, the Ovarian Psycos host monthly Luna rides that are for females or female-identified people only. Because of the nature of misogyny, the members have to constantly defend their female-only stance as represented by one member who says, "The whole world is made for men," yet the Ovarian Psycos aren't allowed to have one space for solidarity in a female-only ride.

The thing that struck me most about Ovarian Psycos is the way members utilize gang culture with hand gestures and a fierce sense of community, but are not violent or criminal. However, people are quick to label them as a gang, either because they're women of color or because of the area they're from, but the Ovarian Psycos take the gang culture mentality and turn it on its head. 

The Ovarian Psycos also incorporate female anatomy as an intrinsic part of their presentation. Instead of being ashamed, as many women are, of their female organs the Ovarian Psycos put Fallopian tubes on their bandannas, call their organizers "Clit Rubbers," and maintain their catchphrase, "Ovaries so big, we don't need no fuckin' balls!" I love it all because way too many women, feminists or not, are too conditioned to be ashamed of their bodies and the Ovarian Psycos say "fuck it" to internalized misogyny and body shame.

Ovarian Psycos was one of my favorite films at the Cleveland International Film Festival so far because it shows the lives of brown women, who's contributions to social movements are often overshadowed by men or white women. The documentary not only shows members contributions to the group, but their struggles as single mothers, as people living in poverty, or the emotional legacy handed down to them by mothers who are convinced of an old school, essentialist mentality that women can and should only do certain things. 

With resistance from their families and a male-centric society, the Ovarian Psycos stand up as a vestige of safety for women in a city, and a world, that fundamentally devalues brown women's lives. As a Mexican American woman, I can't help but relate, but Ovarian Psycos has inspired me to organize my own community, protect my own, and maybe even ride a bike more.

Rating: 5/5