It’s Coming: the Organizing Committee Meets to Finalize Plans for August Clitoral Mass

Dalia, Karen, Alejandra, and Paulette from the organizing committee talk about the logistics of the upcoming Clitoral Mass ride spearheaded by the Ovarian Psyco-Cycles. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Several months ago, I sat down with Sean Deyoe, one of the masterminds behind the Passage Ride. He had asked about setting up a bike ride through South L.A. and if I would think about an interesting and informative route through the area.

Sure, I said. I could try

HELL, NO, I thought to myself. Is he INSANE?

I ride almost every day, and I ride a lot — anywhere from 20 – 60 miles a day, depending on where I have to be — and have for almost 20 years.

So, it’s not like I don’t get around.

But I’m almost always riding alone.

The idea of organizing a ride so other people could see what I see, and be entertained, informed, and invigorated all at once strikes me as terrifying.

I don’t know why, really. Maybe it is the idea of imposing the way I ride and the odd things I like on other people? I’m not sure. Whatever it is, I never came up with that South L.A. route. (Sorry, Sean. I suck, I know.)

So, when I saw the organizing committee put out a call for volunteers to attend their sixth (6th!) planning meeting for the 2nd Annual Clitoral Mass ride spearheaded by the Ovarian Psycos, I wanted to sit in and hear how they were tackling the problem.

As you may have guessed, they’re struggling with it, too. Although for very different and far more awesome reasons.

For one, their first CM ride last year was incredibly successful.

More than 200 women showed up from around Southern California and beyond to ride nearly 30 miles in the first such event of its kind in L.A.

From the ceremony before the ride, to the welcome with drumming and wisdom from elders and other powerful women in Leimert Park, to the after-party east of downtown (see photos here), they have a lot to live up to this year. And they’re confident they can do it better.

Against the backdrop of a sunset over Mariachi Plaza and the soundtrack of the b-boys practicing their skills on the empty stage last night, a handful of women and a male ally from Comida no Bombas (Food Not Bombs), met talk about the route, logistics, fundraising, potential collaborations, and outreach.

They’ve been meeting regularly there and at Proyecto Jardin for the past several weeks to nail down details.

It wouldn’t be such a big deal if it was going to be just another bike ride. But they are hoping to create an experience for people. And since they’re expecting 300 women (or more) this year, having a tightly programmed event that plans for all possible contingencies as they move approximately 30 miles between Boyle Heights, Pasadena, and Watts is key.

That means thinking about everything from snack menus (sangria and churro cupcakes, anyone?) at one of the pit stops, to Aztec dancing at another stop, to where the best end point might be, given that the ride will probably end around midnight and the women will need a space where they can gather, participate in a closing ceremony to celebrate their accomplishment, use the restroom, and get home from safely.

Sunset races around Mariachi Plaza. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Ova Alejandra Ocasio told me they had other goals, too, including defining the role of male allies more clearly and attracting even more young women. To those ends, the women have decided to take on the role of road captains and mechanics themselves this year, asking male allies that are interested in participating to help out at pit stops or follow the ride in a support car. To get the word out to younger women in their community, they’ve been visiting high school classrooms and talking to youth about what they do and what they hope to accomplish. They are also planning to make appearances on local radio programs and do more networking.

This weekend, they’ll be meeting again to finalize the route and will possibly be testing some of it out at their Sunday Luna Ride.

In short, they’ve put a lot of work into what promises to be another meaningful event that will build on their tradition of encouraging young women and women-identified people to be confident in who they are.

And while that was all very inspiring, perhaps the best thing about last night was watching the young daughter of one of the Ovas pick up a child’s bike and wobble around the plaza on it.

Her mother, Paulette, stopped speaking to turn and watch in wonder. The girl had just spotted the bike and decided she could do it on her own without any fanfare.

“It’s the first time she’s riding without training wheels!” an emotional Paulette said, clapping her hand to her chest.

We all stopped to watch as the girl rode joyfully in circles, haltingly at first, and then fluidly — even racing with the boys.

It was the best possible evidence of the impact their work that she and the other organizers could have hoped for: a young girl assuming that to be active, independent, and fearless is utterly and completely normal.

The 2nd Annual Clitoral Mass, spearheaded by the Ovarian Psycos, will be held August 24th. See here for the FB event page and stay tuned for more details.

  • Sean

    Someday we’ll make it happen, Sahra. Someday.

  • overly squeamish

    Coming soon: a bicycle club for every demographic bracket, ensuring no one ever has to ride a bike with someone different than them. Mine will be called the Testicular Terror All-Terrain Bike Train and we will be stopping at every strip club to pick up and drop off riders every first Friday night of the month. Could this city be any more divided?

  • sahra

    You know, we went through this last year, with people being really upset that women wanted to ride on their own. I’ll have to refer you to the discussions in previous articles written on the topic if you want to have that debate. That said, I can say as a woman that has been riding for nearly 20 years there is something to the idea to giving women a safe community they can ride with. I tried doing group rides early on when things started blowing up in LA. I personally wouldn’t say the events were “hostile” to women, per se. But the atmosphere could be really weird. since I was usually riding in those events alone (my friends didn’t ride bikes), I felt like a moving target. guys would approach me to tell me about how much faster they were than other guys, how they weren’t “pussies” for having brakes, how hardcore they were, criticize my gear/lack of, and even treat me like I was stupid or weak, despite the fact that i had been riding longer than they had. By the end of the night, I would feel like I had just been bombarded with all this weird energy and it was kind of draining. And that’s me — I grew up a tomboy who dreamed of playing in the NFL. I can kick it with the guys and actually tend to be more comfortable around guys as a general rule. But the energy of the rides was just weird and aggressive in ways that didn’t jive with the way I wanted to spend an evening. It doesn’t mean everyone on a group ride is like that — not even close. But a woman on her own might feel overwhelmed by the fringe guys who do operate that way. Women-identified people may feel even more out of place. The women’s ride last year created a really supportive environment and helped encourage women who might not otherwise have attempted a group ride to get out and experience the joy of riding through the city at night. I don’t see a problem with that. If you still feel oppressed, well, I wish you well on your strip club tour.

  • Niall Huffman
  • overly squeamish

    That article goes off into some faulty logic that invalidates the point it was making. I think it works better when you keep it to just the two words. Don’t the New Yorkers do it like that? Fuck you, fuck you too. Off they go into their lives. I’ll be damned if they don’t do it with way more people per square foot that we do.

  • Niall Huffman

    Whatever. Have fun bleating about the injustice being perpetrated by those horrible feminist oppressors and organizing your men-only ride that nobody will show up for.

  • overly squeamish

    My comment was a parody designed to do two things:

    1) Draw light on a greater topic which is the divisive nature of Los Angeles. With such an extraordinary number of cultures, religions, and races living together in a climate that permits year-round outdoor activity and miles of asphalt, what better than cycling to unite the people? Nope, chicks only.

    2) The name is silly. I would cry with joy if I found out my partially disabled mother had joined an all-female cycling club. Even once! CRY!!! Will I refer her to the Ovarian Psyco-Cycles Clitoral Mass ride? Noooooope. I never said women couldn’t come on my ride and I never said what kind of strip clubs we would be stopping at. Finally, imagine riding a bicycle with a pair of balls between your legs! Now, who’s oppressing who?

    I’m sorry the rides are weird, it’s just how it is in LA. 19% of the people who can afford to ride decent bicycles are self-absorbed vegan coke-sniffing douches. 44% are gay so I get it too. If somebody started talking weird stuff, regardless of gender/gender-identity (theirs or mine), I would wonder how they have enough breath to keep up with me and talk at the same time. I wish EVERYBODY rode bicycles. Good luck to you too!

  • overly squeamish

    The only requirement is that you like strip clubs. Ladies can come and we’ll stop at the beefcake joints too.

  • Niall Huffman

    From what I can tell, it’s not about excluding men; it’s about helping women ease into the LA bike scene and give them a space where they can feel comfortable. I don’t think anyone expects that members of the Ovarian Psycos will be riding exclusively with women for the rest of their lives.

  • sahra

    I think you’re missing the point… which is that the when women do join in the large rides — which many do — they don’t always feel that welcome, as I tried to explain with my own experience. Maybe that’s “just how it is in LA,” as you say. But what it means is that the bikes didn’t bring everybody together, as you suggested, they made some of them feel more alienated. It isn’t the women’s fault that some of them felt alienated just as it wasn’t mine that some meatheads turned me off of big group rides because of how they treated me.

    I’m not an Ovarian Psyco, and I can’t speak for their group and their agenda. Nor do I necessarily take the approach they do to discrimination and/or oppression, so your energy is best spent by engaging them directly, if you’re that concerned. That said, I think the very reason that the norm for “how it is in LA” is one that makes some women really uncomfortable justifies their desire to try to take a different path for one night a year, no? If it prevented men from being able to bike the city with some other ride that night, that would be one thing. But this isn’t the Augusta National Golf Club. This is a group of women saying they want a girls’ (and girl-identified) night out.

  • bravo excellentes initiatives.

  • calwatch

    The fact is that for various reasons, some men like to use bike rides to pick up people of the opposite sex (and vice versa). Meanwhile, some women get annoyed by that conversation, even if the men feel that they are being flattering. And other women feel that they need to impress the guys, consciously or subconsciously, and may do or say things that they might not do if they were in a “safe space”, just like men might do certain things with women around than without.

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