A few weeks ago, in a conversation with a mentor, I mentioned the fact that I was interested in writing a piece about feminism in South Africa. He listened carefully to my somewhat half-baked, but nonetheless strong, opinions. He then questioned me on some of my assumptions and asked me if I knew the work of feminists such as Mmatshilo Motsei. To many of these questions he drew blank responses from me.
What then followed was the verbal equivalent of a sjambok-ing, where he effectively told me that if I wanted to have such strong opinions about this and any other subject I should at the very least do some reading and get a clue. I was a little hurt, and, of course, embarrassed that a man was giving me an education on feminism.
Nonetheless, I took to reading a number of articles from journals and magazines such as ‘Madonna, finally a real feminist’ by Camille Paglia, and read a few books including Pumla Dineo Gqola’s A Renegade called Simphiwe and Shireen Hassim’s ANC Women’s League: Sex, Politics and Gender. Needless to say, me and my know-it-all-ness were opened up to a whole new world of critical thought about feminism and its meanings in various contexts, including the South African one. It challenged many of my assumptions and beliefs, such as that I had always seen myself as black before being a woman. I have enjoyed this exploration and continue on it, constantly switching between feelings of confusion and certainty about where I stand with the ‘f-word’.
So this month, Vanguard brings you along this journey and will explore some aspects of what it means to be a woman living in South Africa. We have the privilege of publishing Rhode Marshall’s brave account of how she and many other women are just like Reeva Steenkamp; Ntombenhle Shezi will take on women policing each other’s bodies and, in a positive spirit, we celebrate some of our female cultural icons.
In our Culture section, Coconut author Dr Kopano Matlwa-Mabaso shares the five books that have allowed her to become herself, our favourite graphic designer Thandiwe Tshabalala showcases her ‘ABCs of Setswana Names’ and Vanguard’s resident cool kids, Nomkhosi and Nombuso Nkambule share the antithesis to the summer playlist with ‘Sounds like winter’. In our Fashion section stylist Siki Msuseni shares budget-friendly DIY fashion tips and we celebrate timeless beauty Yasmin Furmie who brings us style at any age.
We do hope you enjoy our women’s month issue and would love to hear your thoughts on the topics we explore.