When I teach on invisible labor in my classes (and specifically in the course Caliban and the Witch), I am hoping to help people make more connections between whose labor supports whose knowledge production.
Said another way: How much of the "knowledge" revered at the centers of canons of thought was created through stealing the lives of others?
For example, when I was an MA student at Yale (a school built through colonial violence in India and slave labor), I was perplexed by the amount of resources given to studying the archives of Jonathan Edwards. To be sure, Edwards is arguably the most influential theologian in U.S. history. As a Yale alumni (from the 18th century), his papers are there and receive much attention and grant money.
But, why weren't we talking about how he built his body of work?
He studied and wrote 12 hours a day.
His wife Sarah had 11 children.
He studied and wrote 12 hours a day (I shall repeat).
He owned the domestic labor of his wife and he owned the labor of African slaves—that is how he studied and wrote about God all day.
His uninterrupted time to write about God—to be prolific, to be in demand, to make a legacy, to go down in history and have his words read and re-read and studied for centuries—was based on owning the life’s labor of his wife and his slaves: Leah and Rose, Joseph and Sue, a teenage girl named Venus, a 3-year-old child named Titus.
I think that:
Sarah (his wife)
Leah (his slave)
Rose (his slave)
Joseph (his slave)
Sue (his slave)
Venus (his slave)
Titus (his slave)
....had dreams of their own, knowledge of their own, perhaps their own ideas of God and the cosmos they wanted to write about, perhaps traditions that they wanted to be cared for, passed down, learned from for future generations.
(Where are their archives? What were their dreams, hopes, pleasures, joys, artistic and creative life? What books and sermons would they have written about what they knew about the world and about Divinity?)
What is at stake with patriarchal and racist systems that make labor invisible and steal labor, is that entire knowledges and bodies of work and books and art are not created because marginalized lives and dreams have been stolen to make the dominant canon.
That is part of why in all my classes I talk about epistemic justice so much. To be part of feminist practices, feminist learning, and feminist redistribution of resources is to support the work and bodies of thought, writing, and art that patriarchy and white supremacy do not want to exist.
I really saw this brilliant Tik Tok that breaks down why a super smart woman doesn't want to get married to me. She feels like a prophet to me. Her words are worth meditating on.
What I would add is that when women are coerced into invisible labor every day, in which as heterosexual partners, they are taking care of men who are not fully formed adults (but at a psychic level, these men are teenagers who want a mom to take care of them indefinitely), there are consequences for history itself.
The consequences for history itself is that these women are not being allowed to imagine or dream or create.
(There is another side to this story—and it is how class privilege and submission to patriarchy within class privilege keeps some women locked into not developing into fully formed adults, too. This topic is for another essay.)
I am hoping in the book that I am writing now for men (and their women partners) to give helpful language and tools for how men practice feminism by supporting women as creators, writers, intellectuals, prophets, and artists (and as mothers and partners, too).
I am hoping we can interrupt and shake up the canon and centers of gravity.
I am hoping in this time of dire crisis on the planet we can birth new possibilities through men practicing forms of feminism that are directly linked to supporting women's creativity, study, writing, and knowledge-making.
I have a new podcast percolating on these topics —as tied to the book project that is underway. Stay tuned! I am also recruiting men to help with various aspects of launching the podcast and my writing this book for men. I am hoping that how the book is birthed builds momentum for partnerships that could serve as models for how men support feminist labor, creativity, and teaching.
It is an experiment—but so far one that is picking up momentum! So, if you are a man who wants to be involved (with the podcast coming to life, or the book being written, or various roles you can imagine in supporting the work of Feminism School), please get in touch as the spirit moves you.
Dr. Kimberly B. George
Founder of Feminism School