Beautiful Godzilla: Rebel Grrrls—Ovarian Psycos
Bike / BMX
Ovarian Psycos’ Maryann Aguirre, aka La Fingers, answers a phone somewhere in East LA with unrestrained enthusiasm as I state my name on the other end at the SLUG Headquarters in Salt Lake. My own excitement is muted by slight intimidation and the natural awkwardness that accompanies my introduction to any stranger, but something about her voice is familiar, and it greases the stiffness I’m feeling. She’s just arrived at her home after biking from work in the heat, and, having ridden to the office during pit-staining temperatures earlier that day myself, it’s easy to lament her discomfort. As we discuss her bicycle, a Raleigh hybrid she’s pretty fond of, Aguirre speaks rapidly in Spanish-speckled English, her pitch inflecting upwards at the end of each sentence, giving my inquiries a boomerang effect. As she explains her nickname, La Fingers, a result of being caught wagging her middle-finger on more than one occasion, I know I’m talking to the right person. Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” lyrics pop into my head as I listen––”That girl thinks she’s the queen of the neighborhood. She’s got the hottest trike in town. That girl holds her up so high. I think I wanna be her best friend, yeah!”––and I quietly make the (creepy) decision to friend request her later. Feeling conversational, I stray from the long list of chronological questions I’ve typed up, but Aguirre wants to stick to the plan––she’s been chosen to represent the Ovas in this particular interview, and she’s gonna do it right.
Though Aguirre tells me she has only been a part of the “womyn and womyn identified” Los Angeles bike crew for about a year, the Ovarian Psycos celebrated two years of female empowered thuggery over the summer. The group was founded by Xela de la X, aka Cihuatl Ce, for similar reasons as many other female organizers, including myself: to provide a safe space for women within a very male-dominated community. Of course, their mission statement, goals and organization are much more ambitious and resourceful than my attempts have ever been, but I’ll get to the deep stuff in a moment. What initially attracted me to the Ovas, after the lovely Elizabeth Lopez Medina linked me to their merch page, was their deliciously deviant slogan: “Ovaries so big, we don’t need no fucking balls.”
Yeah, yeah, feminism is about equality, yadda yadda––but the Ovarian Psycos are far from being the he-man haterz hypocritically correct ding-dongs are gonna make them out to be. Aguirre tells me the slogan came about organically and conscientiously, and was met with mostly positive feedback. “We’re not gonna have a fuckin’ ‘ride my bike and I feel so free!’ kind of slogan,” she says. “No––ovaries so big, we don’t need no fuckin’ balls!” Aguirre’s voice gets louder and she loses the questioning inflection as she explains the group’s target demographic. “We try to be particular with the words that we choose to use because we’re trying to hit certain kinds of women,” she says. “Not just women who are just like ‘oh yeah, cool, I like to ride my bike,’ [but] women who need the sisterhood and the bonding … ‘at-risk’ society.” Aguirre drops down an octave as she opens up about her own background, laying it out for me in a matter-of-fact kind of list. She’s 22-years-old, Chicana, and a mother of a 4-and-a-half-year-old, working full time. She’s had a rough life, growing up in the hood with an abusive parent, pregnant at 16. “It’s not just to go and ride our bikes,” she continues. “It’s much deeper than that. We’re trying to outreach to women [whom] society has decided are not the fucking top girl––they’re the fuck-ups.”
Ovarian Psycos’ mission statement shakes any doubts that this group of ladies doesn’t mean business. They claim to organize and cycle “for the purpose of healing our communities physically, emotionally and spiritually, by addressing pertinent issues through cycling,” and they have every aspect of this statement covered in just one of their many events––the Luna Ride. Surprisingly their only monthly “womyn and womyn-identified only” ride, the Luna Ride happens every full moon at sundown and promotes what Aguirre calls “wrap-around therapy.” “We bring in the physical, which is writing down miles and bike-riding and stuff, but at the end, we bring in a different level, which is why we’re different from other groups,” she says. This includes anything from talks on domestic violence and breast cancer, to special, indigenous ceremonies celebrating the Mayan Moon Goddess, Ix Chel. Aguirre senses my surprise and hesitation at her admittance to worshipping anything other than the two-wheeled whip between her legs, and explains that the ceremony is completely secular and rooted in culture, not theology. “We have our ancestral background, so we feel the need to bring in these ceremonies because this is something that some of us have recently found,” she says. “For myself, I recently started being a little more spiritual.” My reflex to recoil at the mention of spirituality is a personal flaw stemming from experiences inside the polarizing atmosphere created by Utah’s dominant religion, but Aguirre’s somewhat vague descriptions of the ceremony sound inviting. She’s hesitant to give me details, as it seems to be a personal and sacred experience, but explains it as a talking circle of introspection and celebration of the feminine––emotional and beautiful.
In addition to the Luna Rides, the Ovas also organize a variety of fun, sometimes-themed, co-ed rides, coordinate ladies and trans shop nights similar to Salt Lake’s own ladies nights at the Bicycle Collective, and table at a variety of community events. The Ovas are also currently seeking out their own space, a “bicycle womb” of sorts, Aguirre says, collaborating with the Boyle Heights Collaborative, funded through the California Endowment. All of this requires a lot of structure and organizing, and as Aguirre explains their leadership hierarchy, I can’t believe these women aren’t running the country yet––seriously, if this nation has any hope of surviving the next 50 years, it’s in the Ovarian Psycos. The Ovas operate successfully as a decentralized form of government that changes seasonally. The group as a whole is called the Ovarian Psycos Cycle Brigade, and it includes every man and woman who shows up to the rides and events. Group decisions are monitored by a Core Collective, made up of seven central figures and six SLITS (Sister Leaders In Training), who attend meetings every other week. The leadership heads, dubbed the Left and Right Ovaries (LRO), serve as co-chairs for the group and change with the seasons. One is a self-appointed volunteer, the other is chosen randomly from a hat, and their main purpose is to host the bi-weekly meetings. At these meetings, the Ovas discuss events, create agendas, decide how they want to be portrayed (pick someone to respond to that annoying Utah girl who keeps hassling them about an interview), and do “clit checks”––making sure everyone’s doing their fair share and getting shit done. The Ovas also have committees responsible for different aspects of the group, and Aguirre is currently part of the Outreach Committee as well as the Core Collective, handling much of the tabling, social media and, thankfully, interviews. What truly brings success to the group is their dedication to a worthwhile cause. “I don’t get paid for this, this is from the heart. As much stress as it might be, at the end of the day, none of us would be doing this if we weren’t getting our energy and our strength through our hearts and what we believe in,” says Aguirre. “It’s much deeper than how many likes we can get on Facebook.”
Aguirre shows more and more enthusiasm as we talk about events, and when I finally bring up Clitoral Mass, she nearly reaches through the phone and excitedly shakes my shoulders, telling me how amazing the event’s gonna be. Though Clitoral Mass, the female empowered version of Critical Mass, is a long-established, international event, (at the time of this interview) the Ovarian Psycos are organizing LA’s first-ever to coincide with the blue moon on August 31. “We just thought it was perfect!” says Aguirre, as the blue moon only happens every two to three years, and is surrounded by much of the folklore the Ovas subscribe to. I nearly fall off my chair when she gives me the date, as it happens alongside a previously planned trip to LA. Aguirre immediately exclaims that I HAVE to come, and asks if I need somewhere to stay, or if I’ll need a bike, explaining that they’ve set up a registry on their website for those coming into town for the big event. By the time this issue hits stands, I’ll have been a part of LA’s first Clitoral Mass, riding alongside a group of women who share my love of cycling and sisterhood.
I’ve been on the phone with Aguirre for over an hour as the interview begins to wrap up, and she feels like an old friend. I’m completely charmed by her attitude and sincerity: “I just gotta go where I gotta go, and I gotta do what I gotta do, and no man’s gonna fuckin’ stop me,” she says at one point in our discussion, completely sealing the deal on that friend request, which I now get to make in person. I ask her one last, heavy hitting question: “What does it mean to be an Ovarian Psyco?” Aguirre goes quiet for a moment. “Being an Ovarian Psyco is not necessary just for women, anyone can be an Ova,” she begins slowly. “Someone who’s proud of themselves and proud of who they are. Being an Ovarian Psyco doesn’t mean that you ride a bike or that you’re a mad cyclist, that you can write down miles. Being an Ovarian Psyco is more of a state of mind—it’s an identity. It’s the way I identify myself, just like I choose to identify myself as a Chicana. It’s not hating men, it’s being proud of who you are, taking charge of yourself, your body, your surroundings and loving your community and giving back.”
At the end, as I describe my own bicycle group, Salty Spokes, and complain to Aguirre how difficult and frustrating it is to organize events sometimes, she gives me exactly what I need to hear. “One person didn’t make Ovarian Psycos what it is. It took time and it took the heart of different women to start structuring it to what you see and what we do.”
Bikini Kill said it best: “That girl thinks she’s the queen of the neighborhood. I got news for you––she is!”