Reflecting Rogue: Inside the Mind of a Feminist by Pumla Dineo Gqolo (first published in 2017 by Jacana)
Reflecting Rogue: Inside the mind of a feminist is an amalgamation of Pumla Dineo Gqola's thought-provoking essays on the South African political condition, black girls' bodies, reconciling one's feminism in professional spaces as well exploring guilt-free pleasure as a woman.
I say thought-provoking specifically because at no point throughout reading Professor Gqola's 20 essays do you feel preached to or that her words are coercing you towards a singular mindset or opinion.
Instead, Gqola eloquently presents her argument and she lets it simmer in your mind for a moment... and then it hits you in the shower, in an Uber, and even while you're tossing and turning trying to fall asleep.
I also had the pleasure of attending the launch of this book during the Open Book Festival earlier this month, where Gqola shared the following sentiments with Toni Stuart (and the audience) on what being a feminist means to her:
"It’s being able to not mind my business when I’m driving and I see a young man dragging a woman on the road and I don’t know what happened. Yeah, he could have a gun, but it’s just not forgetting to mind my business and it’s backing up other people who don’t mind their business.
It’s [the ability] to hold myself accountable, but also learning to have compassion for myself."
She further said...
“In principle, I want to be a complete problem. A problem not in a destructive way, but in creative ways - it’s movement, it’s knowing that there’s something wrong with the most powerful man in the country, knowing who he is after Fezeka. And it’s the ability to say that.
If I didn’t have feminism I wouldn’t know how to say that and how to believe it and how to mean it."
Read an excerpt from Redi Tlhabi's book on Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo's story here.
But back to the book - Gqola touches on the inner-conflict of reconciling one's feminism in a capitalist context, which values male labour over female labour. In another chilling essay, "Disappearing Women", she reflects on the grave phenomenon of women going missing in this country and how some of them die at the mercy of partners who supposedly love them.
"Belonging to Myself" is an important essay which rejects internalised patriarchy and misogyny. In it Prof Gqola addresses the process of unlearning the limitations patriarchy imposes on women from a young age.
As a mother to two boys, Pumla shares how being a feminist mother is a continuous learning experience in "Mothering while Feminist." This essay also mentions how parenting takes more than just one or two biological parents - it's a shared effort between friends and family.
"A love letter to the Blackman who raised me" is the endearing essay which concludes Pumla's reflections. An essay I relate to on an almost spiritual level. Given the narrative around absent black fathers/father figures, I think it's important to also give credit to those who stuck around and raised us.
Pumla Gqola unpacks several uncomfortable, yet necessary lessons in each essay - lessons which make one question whether the moral trajectory this country is taking is one which will leave our future daughters better or worse off.
I also think this a very important read considering the fact that a lot of South Africans (of all genders) have expressed their contempt - albeit unfounded - towards black feminists being based upon the fact that they either find woke jargon intimidating/exclusionary or that black feminism is arrogant and loud.
However, the manner in which Sis' Pumla's essays are packaged completely debunks the notions of the "these feminists" brigade. And if you're someone who is in need of a gentle, yet blunt introduction to what being a feminist in post-apartheid South Africa entails, then I would definitely recommend Reflecting Rogue.
Ultimately, Reflecting Rogue is a book which sets out to negotiate contradictions, while also stressing the importance of introspection.
That said, I leave you with these words from the witty Prof, which speak to the fluidity of feminism:
"Is [feminism] aggressive? Yes. Is it always aggressive? If it wants to be and if it needs to be.
Is it gentle sometimes? Yes, if it wants to be."
Purchase a copy of the book from Raru.co.za.
WATCH: Pumla Gqolo in conversation with Eusebius McKaiser