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'Clitoral Mass' Biking Event Empowers Women To Take Back The Streets

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This weekend's Clitoral Mass is a bike ride just for women (and those who identify as women/'womyn'), but it's more than just a bike ride. It's about empowerment, too. Organizing group the Ovarian Psycos say that biking culture is dominated by white men, and they seek to inspire women who want to cycle. Alejandra Ocasio, a core collective member of the group, says they choose to bike not only for the exercise and the earth, but "because we're broke, inner-city oppressed peoples and cycling is our only means of transportation." She said that many members come from broken homes or a background of abuse, and the ride can be empowering. Plus, it builds bonds in a society that Ocasio says tells women they should be competing against each other.

I asked Ocasio how she felt the experience of riding a bike was different for a woman. She acknowledged that biking was dangerous in L.A. to begin with, noting the number of hit and runs popping up in the news and the anecdotal accounts of near run-ins from fellow cyclists, but said women are often perceived to be "more vulnerable."

"Other people, especially drivers, feel that they can harass women on their bikes with impunity," she said. "From talking with other women on our rides, it seems as if everyone has at least one story about being followed, being verbally harassed or worse while on their bikes. This is why we feel that it is not only important to empower women to take back the streets, but include our male allies in the healing process as well."

With trending hashtags like #youoksis, #yesallwomen and #thatswhathesaid, this news shouldn't be surprising. A recent Metro survey reported that 1 in 5 riders had been sexually harassed while using public transit. Another survey shows that most of L.A.'s growing bike scene is men. For women who may be shy to ride, Clitoral Mass provides a supportive way to get comfortable with the road while in good company.

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Clitoral Mass is also very inclusive to transwomen as well, openly inviting all "womyn, queer, femme, trans, gender non-conforming and two-spirited individuals" to ride.

"We understand gender is a spectrum," Ocasio said. "Identifying as 'womyn' is not as simple as what reproductive parts you have. While a lot of our rhetoric and word usage is centered around female body parts, we recognize that not everyone that identifies as 'womyn' has the same parts. We are working to create communities around marginalized peoples; we can't do that without also including those identities."

Ocasio admits this has sometimes been challenging, but the key is to continue to educate themselves and others, saying "we are by no means experts."

The goal for Saturday's ride is 300-400 participants. The ride is long, but traffic control, medics and mechanics will be helping along the way. It also begins and ends in Grand Park, so riders can take the train. "It's going to be hot, but it's going to be fun," she said. "We have a lot of fun pit stops planned for everyone, as well as food and water for all the riders."

For new riders, Clitoral Mass also has provided this tip sheet.

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Clitoral Mass happens this Saturday, August 16, meet up at 1 p.m., ride at 1:30 p.m. Grand Park, 200 N. Grand Park, DTLA.