Ovarian Psycos Frame Their Own Narrative


A woman sits in a chair and speaks into a microphone
After a screening of the documentary “Ovarian Psycos,” members of the feminist bike brigade discussed their work in Boyle Heights and East L.A. with students in Garrison Theater. (Lia Francis-Bongue • The Student Life)

“As an Ovarian Psyco, I give my word/palabra, to live my life with my feet firmly planted on my pedals, with mad heart for my sisters, my hood, and my people – and with my spirit always rebellious.” – Ovarian Psycos Bicycle Brigade

Such is the pledge of the Ovarian Psycos Bicycle Brigade, a feminist collective of Latinx women formed in Boyle Heights in 2010 with a mission to fight social and racial injustice and build community in East Los Angeles. According to their official blog, the group’s “political views are feminist ideals with indigena understanding and an urban/hood mentality.”

Ovarian Psycos’ founding members, “Xela de la X” and “Joss the Boss,” aired their film “Ovarian Psycos” at Scripps College’s Garrison Theatre on Oct. 25 as part of the fall 2017 Scripps Presents speaker series.

The group exists out of necessity. L.A. is a car city, but many people rely on bikes for low cost transportation. However, bike culture in Los Angeles, and nationwide, is overwhelmingly dominated by upper-middle class white men as an expensive hobby rather than primary transportation.

“Ovarian Psycos” premiered in March 2017 as a documentary about the women at the heart of this movement, which itself comes from a long legacy of Chicanx civil rights movements in East L.A. The film focuses on the personal stories of its founding members: Xela, a poet, emcee, and activist, and Andi Xoch, a young street artist.

Despite the film’s positive critical reception, the original Overthrowing Vendidxs, Authority & the State (O.V.A.S.) are not fans of the film. According to Xela and Joss, the film did not honor the promise of transparency, as “Ovarian Psycos” is now shown on airlines, and is reportedly negotiating a deal to become streamed through Netflix. In short, the film is being commodified, Xela and Joss said. In fact, they were hesitant to consent to the documentary in the first place, when originally contacted by the two white female filmmakers Joanna Sokolowski and Kate Trumball-Lavalle.

However, when the O.V.A.S. were presented with what was framed as an opportunity to provide an example of a sisterhood of women of color to young girls outside of East Los Angeles, the Ovarian Psycos agreed – with the condition of complete transparency from Sokolowski and Trumball-Lavalle.

Xela, Joss, and the other O.V.A.S. members want to re-frame the film’s narrative on their own terms. The Q&A session held along with the documentary is a part of this new curriculum surrounding the narrative the Ovarian Psycos are seeking to create.

“We are looking for a part two [of the narrative]” said Xela, hoping to reconstruct a portrayal without the white gaze on her community.

The film itself features shots of women smoking and drinking, which arguably overplay their tough “hoodness.” In fact, Xela said the beer shown in the film had been provided by the filmmakers. This is just one example of what she feels is a portrayal of specific archetypes regarding Latinx women. Xela also believed that the “crying shots” were similarly overdone to play into the construction of victimization.

The film is an undoubtedly beautiful, dramatic artwork, filled with moving images of empowered bikers. However, Joss said that this may blur the line between a realistic portrayal and a romantized depiction of what it takes to self-organize in a community – with their work being boiled down to a few large and emotionally powerful events. For instance, according to Joss, the movie didn’t feature the hours and hours of physical and emotional labor involved in self-organizing.

Despite these issues, audience members made a point that the film nonetheless instills a sense of pride in the conversation following the screening. While feeling empowered by the cycling brigade, Xela noted the difference between “those who made [the film] and those that didn’t; those who continue to do the work and those who made a business out of it.”

Even with the gentrification in Boyle Heights and the surrounding neighborhoods forcing them out of their original space since filming, the O.V.A.S. have remained committed to self-organizing in their community and in transforming pride into useful community action. “You have to be a hundred percent engaged in your community; it’s not enough to see it from a distance,” Xela said.

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