The Soft Life: A deeper exploration of the phenomenon

Lebohang Masango’s book that looks at finer things in life and how a group of women are attaining it. l SUPPLIED

Lebohang Masango’s book that looks at finer things in life and how a group of women are attaining it. l SUPPLIED

Published Nov 3, 2022


Johannesburg - They fill up our social media timelines with what is known as “content”. These are users who are known as influencers, who upload images and videos portraying a lifestyle of opulence.

Influencers are people who have built a reputation for their knowledge and expertise on a specific topic. The soft life, a phenomenon we’ve come to know as one formed and based on lavish holidays, designer bags, dinners, luxury vehicles and more, is enviable and wanted by many.

Musician Nomfundo Moh’s lyrics from her hit single “Soft Life” come to mind when thinking about the concept.

Her lyrics go: “Qo, nqo, nqo, nqo, nqo, sivulele Ningas'valeli ngaphandle Nathi s'fun' ukphil' i-soft life, soft life”. Simply translated, they go: “Knock, knock, knock, open up for us, we also want to live this soft life and be part of it…” and they have resonated with many from all parts of the country.

Also described in the urban dictionary; the soft life is a life of ease without requiring hard work, sacrifice, and unpleasantness. It is important to understand that this social movement is less about wealth and more about fair access to a standardised good quality of living.

However, no one has propelled us to think a little more differently about the “soft life” like Lebohang Masango has with her new book, “The Soft Life”. For once, this is not a book about “transactional sex” or HIV. There is no moral panic over women having standards in their romantic lives or easy clichés of desperation in the face of unrelenting African poverty.

In this book, Lebohang Masango explores how women in South Africa give meaning to aspiration, romance and love in their pursuit of the soft life – a life free of hardship. She reminds us that whether we love it or hate it, soft life will not be a passing trend, even if it carries different names in the future.

Based on research conducted for her master's degree, the book explores the lives of five women – Lihle, Jolie, Camille, Nomonde and Bongi, who are from very different walks of life.

They openly share their stories, providing an insider’s perspective on the life seen on Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and Pinterest; the lavish holidays, the designer bags, the dinners and champagne and the luxury vehicles that make the soft life so irresistible.

Lihle is a 31-year-old from Alexandra, Johannesburg, who loves to eat well, drink well, travel and enjoy new experiences. Jolie is a 29-year-old actuary; Nomonde is a 33-year-old who moved from Johannesburg to Cape Town; Bongi is a 27-year-old from Johannesburg, with a bachelor of business administration degree, who has established an online handbag store; and, Camilla is a 28-year-old junior publicist with a side hustle as a nail technician.

They all share how their dating experiences led them to insist on the soft life. Feminist thinker, author and anthropologist Lebohang Masango explores the many dimensions of this phenomenon, juxtaposing the realities of black people in black areas in this country, with the lives that make the women be what they are. She grounds her often unexpected insights in South African pop culture and prominent women who have made this lifestyle the staple of gossip blogs.

From the outset, Masango makes it clear what it is she wants to do with the book and her exploration of the soft life – which is not to shun those who insist on living it. She handles and tackles the phenomenon of the soft life and the women who live it with sensitivity and a clear tone that shows a different perspective on it.

Masango is a multi-award-winning children's book author, published and awarded poet and is a PhD candidate in social anthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand. She is an inaugural Zanele Mbeki Fellow in feminist leadership and is passionate about young people and women. She lives in Johannesburg.

Follow her on Twitter or Instagram and visit her website. The Soft Life is published by NB Publishers and is available at all major bookstores.

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