Clitoral Mass 2015 Bicycle Ride: Empowering Womxn & Reclaiming LA Streets

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by Katie J

“With our arsenal of ‘indigena understanding and urban hood mentality’ we are building movement in the spirit of rebellion passed down by our great grandmothers, reclaiming the autonomy of our spaces and bodies as we continue to resist the settler occupation of both. The theme for the 4th Annual Clitoral Mass ride is “Mobility and Immobility: Base Building & Reclaiming Spaces Beyond Our Streets” to continue much-needed dialogue and analysis around issues of mass incarceration, mass deportation, gentrification and state-sponsored genocide.“ – Ovarian Psycos, re: Clitoral Mass 2015

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This past Saturday was the Ovarian Psycos’ 4th annual Los Angeles Clitoral Mass bike ride, the now-infamous day when two-spirit, gender non-conforming, queer, trans, and cis womxn* from all walks of life gather to ride as one empowered mass — reclaiming the streets, connecting communities, and having a blast together.

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The 2015 route began at Placita Olvera, where almost 300 womxn-identified individuals on wheels congregated under the afternoon sun. As is tradition, the ride was blessed with an opening prayer that pointed us to the four cardinal directions and touched the earth beneath us, before a volunteer from People’s Yoga stretched us out. With spirits high we saddled up and rode out at 2PM, headed down Los Angeles St. This was my third Clit Mass, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the thrill of taking the streets of my city alongside hundreds of womxn riders, proudly whooping and cheering into the wind. Winding through Chinatown, pedestrians stopped to puzzle over the mass of womxn on bikes coming towards them: some took pictures, most waved, and one elderly lady with a giant smile jumped up and down, yelling “Arriba mujeres! Arriba mujeres!!” as we passed.

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The first pit stop brought us to the Rio de Los Angeles Park, where the shade and soft grass welcomed us for a quick rest. Gracious volunteers passed out fruit and granola bars as a few of the ladies started an impromptu dance party under the trees. The Ova organizers encouraged everyone to get to know one another, as sisterly bonding is one of the main tenants of the ride. The overall atmosphere was friendly and lighthearted, even under the August sun.

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By the time we rolled up to Greayer’s Oak Park the heat was at a high point. Luckily we were blessed with a visit from Todo Verde, who shared their delicious and nutritious juices with everyone! As we enjoyed more snacks and shade, LA Rooted members gave quick project presentations on topics ranging from why we shouldn’t bike on the sidewalk, to a handmade memorial for fallen cyclists. It was heartening to see the young riders standing next to their proud LA Rooted mentors, who spoke earnestly about empowering our city’s youth.

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Afterwards, the North East Los Angeles Alliance performed a powerful piece on the effects of gentrification on communities, cultures, and individual families. El Rio provided the lovely music to the solemn words, which spoke to the urgent necessity of neighbors banding together and fighting for their homes. The Eviction Defense Network was praised for their tireless work in the communities, and sisters were encouraged to share their own tales of how gentrification has affected their lives. “I don’t want to say, ‘I remember when this was…’ to future generations,” said one organizer, “I want to tell about how we fought, and we won, and we are still here.”

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FullSizeRender (27)Invigorated by the rest and ready to find lunch, the mass of cyclists took off towards Lincoln Park, making a brief pit stop to watch a street theater performance by Incarceration/Liberation Summer Theater Project, which works “to highlight the injustices of detention and deportation of immigrant communities.” In a very moving and heart wrenching piece, the performers touched upon many oppressive laws and gross injustices facing our immigrant neighbors. A member of the Youth Justice Coalition recounted his experiences with a broken, racist juvenile detention system, and called on us all to work together to build up our communities, keep families together, and dismantle the vile mass incarceration complex.

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The sun was setting by the time our troupe made it to Hollenbeck Park, but the pinkish grey evening sky and bustling lake made for a welcoming scene. (Plus, a few street vendors had delicious elote!) Everyone gathered around to hear a touching call for awareness and remembrance from members of the Warriors Jiu Jitsu program. Claudia, a founding member of the Warriors, explained that the altar behind her was decorated in memory of the women who lost their lives in that very park to violence. “We ride with them, in their dignity, in their names,” said one of the ride’s safety officers. “To be aware is the first step in self defense.”

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Riders paired up to practice basic self defense techniques at Claudia’s instruction. “We cannot afford to think ‘oh, it won’t happen to me.’ One of the names in the altar, was a young mom who just went for a walk to get medicine, and she never came home. Her body was found by the side of the freeway. We have to be prepared, because it can happen, unfortunately, to any of us.” As somber as the message was, everyone heard it loud and clear. Literally loud — one of the lessons had womxn shouting “NO” to practice using voice as a self defense tool.

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FullSizeRender (36)After we all learned how to get out of an attacker’s grip, a member of the Human Rights Alliance for Child Refugees and Families spoke about the horrible treatment of immigrant women and children in detention centers. The Ovas and their planning committee truly put together an incredible roster of coalitions and organizations to share their stories and inform us all; at every stop I felt better informed and called to action.

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Our final pit stop lead us to the always wonderful and providing R.A.C. (Revolutionary Autonomous Communities); they hosted us at their new location on  7th street, where we hungrily inhaled pizzas and tacos. Through donations and grassroots organizing, R.A.C. provides resources, opportunities, information, and support for those who need it most, and one truly cannot say enough about how powerful and necessary their work is. With the new space, they host L.A.Q.R. (Los Angeles Queer Resistance) yet another incredible coalition of radical thinkers/creators/resisters who spoke to us about their liberation work.

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It was past 11 by the time we left R.A.C.’s spot, but spirits were high as ever while we rolled through downtown. Perhaps the most ‘bougie’ leg of the ride, the Clit Mass horde wheeled past nightclubs and trendy bars whose patrons shouted both cheers and catcalls. It is fundamental to the idea of Clit Mass that the riders, as bikers and womxn, band together to publicly take up and reclaim space. And we very much did just that, riding past the multi-million dollar listings, a hundred womxn strong, whooping and shouting at the top of our lungs “Whose streets?!” “OUR STREETS!” The night air was electrified as all our voices joined together in calls of solidarity, empowerment, and sisterhood. Our strength was so palpable it felt as though nothing in the world could stop us (save for the occasional red light.)

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By the time the remaining riders flew back into Placita Olvera, it felt as though we both had just biked 31 miles, and had only just begun. Everyone cheered and congratulated one another as we received our spoke cards for completing the ride. The mic was passed around for a chance to share the rush and joy: a heartfelt and deep thanks for the safety committee, who did an absolutely outstanding job protecting and encouraging every single womxn (“No rider left behind!” was their mantra); an inspired and cheerful toast from the Menstrual Cycles members who joined the ride all the way from Salinas; and, perhaps most touching, a testimonial from a single rider who had joined for the first time: “All my life, you know, we’re told to be quiet, to not take up space… be obedient… Tonight was incredible, I’ve never seen womxn do this, I’ve never felt anything like this…. thank you.”

doneA massive THANK YOU to all the volunteers, safety officers, planning committee members, Ovas, and riders who made the day an unforgettable experience! Here’s to next year!

[*Editor’s Note: The author’s use of the term ‘womxn’ is used as an all-inclusive term as opposed to woman/women and ‘womyn’ because “The “y” does not account for marginalized womxn groups or the many other feminist movements that have occurred throughout hxstory, such as third world feminist movements. In short, the “y” is a very white liberal way to look at feminism. It excludes womxn of color, trans-womxn, and other folks who may identity as womxn from the conversation and the movement.”]

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3 Replies to “Clitoral Mass 2015 Bicycle Ride: Empowering Womxn & Reclaiming LA Streets”

  1. Great article!!!!!! It gives an awesome summary… A tiny correction… The menstrual cycles came from Salinas…. Thank you so much for writing about this event.. It means so much to many of us! Blessings!

  2. Pingback: Morning Links: Mobility Plan passes but defers battles, Tito’s Tacos owner battles Culver City over CicLAvia |

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