I felt like a superhero. Oh my god. And then, as if my 1980s sparkling US Olympic team gymnastics costume and silver spandex leggings were not enough, Edgar handed me a cape. A bright blue cape with silver lightening bolts. And then my manilas [wrist cuffs] were laced up. And then I put on my mask. I looked in the mirror. Yes, I was definitely some sort of superhero. When we walked off the tv stage, Victor told me “Pareces como Wonder Woman.” I told him I felt like Wonder Woman. Everyone laughed, but it was true. The costume does something. It makes you feel like someone else.
When the Wonder Woman movie came out recently, I was excited though also torn by its politics (see a critique here). More than anything else, because of some frequent travel right before coming to Bolivia, I haven’t seen it. A few days before heading south, I spoke to an older anthropologist, who has become something of a mentor to me. He suggested when I get to La Paz I should “take the [luchadoras] to go see Wonder Woman.”
Now, obviously, I have absolutely nothing against going to see a film with some of my favorite interlocutors. But I was a little put off by the word 'take.' Maybe I’m being overly picky, but I am currently employed as a linguistic anthropologist, so I’ll take this liberty.
'Take' – to conduct or escort (dictionary.com, def. 35). This implies one active party, and one passive party. But moreso than that, it suggests that those who are “taken” are there for the taking.
Every time I come to La Paz, I try to get in touch with the luchadoras-Usually Juanita and Benita first. Occasionally we are able to go out for coffee or tea on a sunny afternoon, but more times than not, they’re simply too busy for me. When I wrote Juanita this time, shortly after arriving, she told me she was leaving for Lima the next morning. Benita was traveling with her. I did run into Carmen Rosa by accident this week, but a very brief conversation was all she had time for.
To me, the idea of “taking” my interlocutors to a movie harkens back to earlier days in anthropology when anthropologists might have imagined the people in their field sites were just sitting around waiting for the anthropologist to show up. That their lives were not complex, busy, and punctuated by travel, filled with family obligations and joys, inflected with studies, work, and also their own forms of fun. Why would I assume that the luchadoras hadn’t already seen Wonder Woman? And if they hadn’t, why would I assume that they would want to see it with me?
I very much admire and respect the women because of whom my dissertation was possible. And of course, if given the opportunity, I would love to treat them to a movie. But assuming they would be both available and enthusiastic about such a use of their precious free time, to me feels presumptious! They’re celebrities, what would they want with a weird anthropologist they already put up with for far too long?