The stifling environs of the downtrodden can give birth to inspiring movements. In Ovarian Psycos, a documentary from Joanna Sokolowski and Kate Trubull-LaValle, fed-up women of color respond to institutionalized sexism and violence by founding a cycling group to support each other and reclaim their community. By celebrating their femininity and strengthening their leadership skills, the women in this stirring film provide an empowering example of how the exploited can choose to take control of their lives.
The film features key members of the Ovarian Psycos organizing meetings and discussing their reasons for founding the group. Xela de la X, the original founder, describes the group as “a collective of women from our neighborhoods” and “women not being scared of riding our bicycles or just claiming space in very dangerous zones”. These marginalized women seek the safety of a group, and draw power from that camaraderie. This kind of environment also fosters a spirit of defiance in the women as they embrace the opportunity and freedom to do what they want – the rest of the world be damned.
The predictable backlash against female empowerment is mercifully given only scant lip service. The standard low-level critiques of an all-women group get some screen time, and we are also treated to unimaginative and sexist internet insults, but these are dismissed quickly. The Ovarian Psycos are not interested in such bromides; they are fighting for their world and their lives – quite literally.
This fight for survival is evident in the undercurrent of abuse that winds through the film. Though these incidents are only mentioned and commented on briefly, it is sufficient enough to convey the harsh realities of the world that these women inhabit; and explains why they seek the safety of a larger community. This group just happens to be organized around cycling, but it nonetheless provides a powerful platform for self-empowerment, social upheaval, and just good old-fashioned rebellion.
Ovarian Psycos offers an important look into a world that few of us have known personally, but to which many can relate in one way or another. It champions initiative and value-seeking above victimhood and marginalization, and offers a spectacular road map for others who wish to ride out of a despondent situation.
Saturday, Apr 30, 9:30 PM, Scotiabank Theatre
Monday, May 2, 3:00 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Friday, May 6, 9:30 PM, Scotiabank Theatre
Tickets can be purchased at the Hot Docs website.