Can you be a feminist if you can’t think?

Are you still a feminist?’ – that was a question asked of me last week by a young woman who had read one of my books.

‘Now there’s a question,’ I thought as I stood at the bus stop tapping a reply into my Blackberry.  ‘I was a feminist when I last thought about it – about four years ago – but I don’t know if I still am because what would involve thinking and I haven’t got time for that.’

Motherhood means I can’t think

Since I’ve had entered motherhood and endeavoured to look after my family, earn a living, be a good friend, go to the gym, sing with my jazz band and play the organ (oh, and then there’s the cooking, cleaning, shopping, washing, bill paying, gardening etc), life has been about immediacy – how to get Arch’s shoes on without a fuss so we both get out of the house on time.

My only time for reflection is when I’m waiting for a bus. I use those moments to strategise: ‘If Arch is going to Oscar’s party on Saturday, I’ve got to buy a present. The only window I  have for doing that is before work on Monday, which means I won’t be able to go to the gym, which means I’ll have to go on Sunday night, which means I can’t take him to see Sheila.’

Backlog in the brain

All the time this is going on, some part of my brain is building up a backlog or things I would like to reflect upon – how has being a mum affected my feminism? If giving birth is both so horrific and so natural what does that say about the nature of nature? If my brain is no longer what it was, does that mean I am no longer the person I was or is there more to me than my cognitive functions?

I feel as though I’m living on borrowed thinking. It’s as though I’m using Internet Explorer 6 and keep seeing the prompts to update my browser but don’t have time to press the button.

Can you be a feminist if you can’t think? That’s one to add to my list. Right – must load that washing machine.

Comments: 5

  1. I think the answer is no… At the risk of sounding horribly holier-than-thou I don’t think I could remain sane unless I meditated before dealing with family, friends, work etc. I used to let them run me ragged but that little oases of God-and-me time seems to make such a difference. And it’s the time when the feminist thoughts can come in such as ‘hang on a minute – why am I planning all this? Why can’t I let go and trust.’
    Tricky with a child I know – but Arch would always prefer a happy mother than a stressed one I think. My step-children call me ‘chilled-out-Mum’ which is really rather nice.

  2. Thanks for your comment Maggy. It’s interesting that you interpreted my being busy as being stressed. It might mean that, but not necessarily. What I was describing was a life of immediacy rather than reflection. Likewise, I didn’t mean I didn’t have time to pray – I do but I don’t have time to read Simone de Beauvoir. So I wasn’t writing about the difference between being stressed and not-stressed or between meditating and not-mediating but about the difference between a life of dealing with immediate needs rather than of spending time thinking things systematically through. It’s a subtle distinction. Thank you for teasing it out.

  3. Steve X says:

    But you are thinking, Jo. Just about different stuff.
    You say you were a feminist last time you thought about it, four years ago Perhaps this confirms that you are still a feminist, because you no longer feel the need to think about whether you are or not?

  4. Thanks Steve. Actually, when I was researching this, I saw that Salma Yaqoob (, parliamentary candidate for the Hall Green constituency was featured on the Feminist Philosophers website ( I felt stupidly proud about this. You could have caught me going “Go girl!” at the computer. It was a bit like when I was last in Barbados and couldn’t help but support the English cricket team even though all my family and friends who were cheering on the West Indies. I might have dual citizenship, but there I was being English. And my need to cheer Salma on suggests I haven’t stopped being a feminist.

  5. Admin,

    Things change..Lots of changes coming from being single to being a mom esp if your a working mom..I guess there are things that cannot be done when your married just like going out with friends all the time ..Lots of sacrifices for the better of your family…Being busy is a part of it..But you just have to learned how to handle it and how to managed time..

    Linda Brown

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