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The Physics Behind a Spin-and-Kick

The Physics Behind a Spin-and-Kick

An interview with Tanita Ramburuth-hurt, Astrophysicist and Black Belt in Tang Soo Do

by Alex Kinmont

The fields of science and sport are still typically associated with men. Tanita Ramburuth-hurt is shattering these stereotypes. Not only does she have a first degree black belt in the Korean martial art Tang Soo Do, but she is currently doing her Masters in Astrophysics.

“I mean, technically we’re all aliens, right? To other aliens.”

Tanita laughs. A favourite question for this Astrophysicist always seems to be about aliens.

When she was small, she told her dad that she believed there is life somewhere out there in the universe. He said to her, “Well, then you want to be an astrophysicist.”

Where extra-terrestrial life may have sparked her interest in outer space, there is a lot more to Tanita’s growing career than thoughts about aliens.

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Tanita is currently joining the global effort to understand dark matter.

“It’s a bit of a buzzword in the astrophysics community as well as in popular science, but no one really knows what it is. We do know how it interacts gravitationally and that’s pretty much the only way we know it exists. But we don’t really know what it is.”

Tanita is excelling in sports as well as science, from winning three gold medals in the junior division at the 2016 World Martial Arts Games to being named Gauteng Sportswoman of the Year in 2017 for Tang Soo Do. She explains how her mother taught her about feminism and told her that girls can do whatever boys can do, perhaps better.

As a woman in science and sport, Tanita is playing an important role. She is representing girls in typically male arenas. Tanita emphasises the importance of representation.

“If there are young girls out there who see that they are represented, they will know that they can get to wherever we are and wherever they want to go.”

This is what she has to say about science, sports and being a woman in both.

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What inspired you to study astrophysics?

Astrophysics is the study of outer space through physics. We study the way stars are born, the evolution of galaxies, the way the universe began. I really love maths and I really love physics, and astrophysics allows me to put those two things together in a way that’s really constructive and really interesting.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve learnt?

The most exciting part about moving up, from undergrad, to post-grad, to masters, is finding out that there are links between ideas and concepts that you hadn’t really realised before, and that can be really beautiful. There have been times in my career where I have had those moments of realisation.

What makes you so sure that aliens exist?

There is a NASA mission going to Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. We believe that there’s an ocean beneath the surface of Europa and that life could potentially exist in that ocean. Linked to that mission were missions to the bottom of the ocean and to the most extreme conditions on earth to see if life could exist in such places, and in all cases on earth we did find life. That gives some evidence that Europa has some alien life in its oceans.

Statistically speaking, we can’t be alone in the universe.

The universe is far too big for ours to be the only planet that harbours intelligent life. Whether we’ll ever meet them? I doubt it in our lifetime.

What sort of impact do you think the discovery of extra-terrestrial life will have on society?

I think it will answer a lot of existential questions that humans have, but it will also bring a lot more unanswered questions. For me it will trenbolone acetate bodybuilding public education be very exciting; there will be a whole new field of physics and science to study.

Is the field of science male-dominated?

The majority of scientific discoveries are attributed to white males. Representation of women in science is bad, but you’ll find that there are plenty of women in science throughout history whose names weren’t put in books. They’ve deliberately been left out of the story.  

That’s why representation really matters. If there are young girls out there who see that they are represented, they will know that they can get to wherever we are and wherever they want to go.

Do you want to go into space?

If the opportunity were to present itself, I would definitely take it.

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Has sport taught you anything about science?

The way that you move in a martial art is governed by the laws of physics, like everything else. When you learn how to do a spin-and-kick, you can apply the laws of circular motion to perfect the kick. It’s like an application of science.

How did you get into Tang Soo Do, and what is it?

Tang Soo Do is a Korean martial art, like Korean karate. We learn kicks, we learn punches, we learn self defense, we learn self-awareness. In Uni, one of my friends was going to try out Tang Soo Do and I joined him. The main reason that I started it was to learn self defense.

I think I fell in love with it in the first hour. It’s given me a way to express myself. I really love the intensity of it. It’s a complete escape from anything that was happening before and anything that will happen after class.

What do you think is most valuable about sports?

It really helps with mental health. When I go to training, everything else disappears. For that whole hour and a half, there’s nothing except Tang Soo Do. That has helped me to get through my degree and life in general. Also you make friends that love the same thing as you do and that’s pretty cool.

You’ve been named Gauteng Sportswoman of the year in 2017. What does that mean to you?

Overall I get a feeling of validation. That I’m on the right track even if I don’t know what that track is. I’m glad that the spotlight can encourage other women to play sport.

What are some obstacles for women in sport?

A lack of funding and a lack of opportunities. There’s still a stigma around women and sport – that that sport is not really for women. Those are the kind of barriers we need to break down in order to give women the opportunity that we deserve to play sport. It’s also very difficult for a women to go to training late at night and have to get home by herself afterwards. That’s a very big deterrent.

What advice would you give to women and girls?

I think advice is difficult to give because people come from different backgrounds and deal with difficulties in different ways. But I think a way to get past difficulties is to try and surround yourself with people who believe in you. You need to believe that your time and your voice is as important as anyone else’s. It’s important to value your capabilities.

What is one thing you wish someone had told you when you were young?

I think if you take yourself too seriously you miss out on a lot of fun.

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It is important that young girls are not discouraged from following their love of science and sports simply because they don’t see other women doing the same. Women like Tanita are changing the game and paving the way for other young girls to follow.

Tanita is looking at doing her PhD in Astrophysics. She will be a woman to watch in the near future.

The History of the ‘F’ Word and Why it is Misunderstood

The History of the ‘F’ Word and Why it is Misunderstood

Picture: SAHistoryOnline

by Alex Kinmont

You’ve probably heard the term ‘Femi-nazi’. Maybe you’ve even sniggered at it, because all you can picture is an angry woman with extra short bangs, a nose ring and lots of tattoos. So how did such an important movement earn such a bad rep?

Féminisme” was first coined in 1837 by French philosopher Charles Fourier to mean advocacy of women’s rights. Today, feminism is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” according to Merriam-Webster.

Feminism is equality, not the superiority of women.

So how did it start, where is it now and why are so many people still confused about it?

The first step towards change is altering the legislature. To change the rules paves the way for changing the attitude.

The first wave of feminism in the late 19th and early 20th century won women the right to vote, marking the start of the fight for gender equality. Although the suffragettes focused on white women’s rights without paying any attention to intersections such as race or sexuality, it is still seen as the first formal political movement for gender equality.

The mid to late 20th century which followed was a time of dramatic social change. In the wake of World War 2 and in the context of the Cold War, world-wide social unrest was at an all-time high.

The fight for racial justice was perhaps most prominent. In South Africa, Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress were fighting the Apartheid Government and in America, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X of the Civil Rights Movement were speaking out against Jim Crow laws.

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There was also an anti-war movement fighting for peace. Student protesters loudly voiced their disapproval of America being at war in Vietnam, as the Cold War threat of mutually assured nuclear destruction hovered over the northern hemisphere.

In such an equality-driven context, women were not to be left out. The second wave of feminism focused on freedom of sexuality and reproductive rights. In America, women fought for the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution which would guarantee equality regardless of sex.

Although criticised as being the white woman’s fight, as the racial concerns of women of colour were sidelined, the progress made here was a big step nonetheless.

At the same time in South Africa, 1956 marked the year when 20 thousand women marched to the Union buildings in Pretoria to protest restrictive pass laws which were affecting their families. This event happened 63 years ago today, on the 9 August.

Women were rising and they were gaining momentum.

The second step towards change is to fix attitudes. Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique criticised society for teaching women that their place is at home. Changing the laws is one thing; to then change people’s minds is entirely different. The power of individuals and society as a whole must never be underestimated.

Where a law may say one thing, society can still say another.

The third wave of feminism came in the early 90s, focusing now on changing social hierarchy. Women subverted once oppressive terms and behaviours. Stilettos and cleavage and the term ‘bitch’ became badges of honour. Women were rebelling against society’s rules.

The fourth wave of feminism is online and now. Claiming a voice and changing attitudes is at the heart of the digital revolution. #MeToo is a world-wide movement encouraging women to speak out against assault and harassment. The power of the internet has powered the wave, providing the platform to effectively have your say and find community.

Modern day feminism is digital and bold. It is continuing the fight against systemic sexism. This time, it becomes intersectional feminism, noting that women of colour and LGBT+ women have deeper grievances that require recognition and support.

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From microaggressions like mansplaining (when men talk over women and explain something to them without being asked to) to violent aggressions like sexual harassment and assault, women are not yet in the clear. Gender-based violence is one of South Africa’s biggest issues; three women everyday are murdered by their intimate partners.

As a global reference, a 2018 study on Women in the Workplace by McKinsey & Company found that in the workplace alone, half of women have been sexually harassed.

Outside the business world, there are still countries where women can’t drive. Even in America today, the ‘Leader of the Free World’, there is a war on women’s bodies as their reproductive freedom is being debated and taken away state by state.

Modern day feminism, the fourth digital wave, is a continuation of a noble fight. So why is it that so many people actually find online feminism annoying?

The true definition of feminism has been lost. Due to feminism having part of the word “feminine” in it, many people who see it flash on their social media disregard is as only caring about women and saying that women are superior.

We are also in an age of fast, digital information. As with any group or community, there are always extremists – and boy does the internet and its never-ending competition for attention love a good extremist story. The world sees the over-the-top feminist screaming about the evilness of men and how women are God, and decides that feminism is just sexism.

There are those who are fail to realise that ‘feminism’ means equality between genders, not the ‘betterness’ of one gender. We must be mindful of what we see on social media and know that for every story reported, there are a thousand unreported stories. We must not generalise an entire culture, race or religion based on a few extremist stories that we see on our timelines.

Feminism is a movement which has been growing throughout the past century. It was, and always has been, about women’s advocacy. Feminism is the fight to achieve achieve equal, not superior, rights.

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Putting Some Numbers to Gender Inequality in the Workplace

Putting Some Numbers to Gender Inequality in the Workplace

by Alex Kinmont

Since the Suffragettes won us the vote a century ago, the fight for gender equality has been making unsteady progress. Today, we are still nowhere near a perfect balance.

Globally, women’s pay and participation in the workforce has significantly improved in the past century. Yet, it still has a long way to go. The World Bank Group’s 2019 report on Women, Business and the Law finds that only 6 countries in the entire world have closed the gender gap with a perfect score of 100.

The score is calculated according to key questions on law restrictions by gender, including how easily women are able to travel, get a job, get paid well, receive maternity leave and pay and run a business. South Africa scores 88. We may be placing it in the top third of results, but we still need to ask why our legislature is not 100% equal.

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Where do we improve?

A 2018 Statssa report notes that the female NEET rate (not in employment, education or training) is consistently higher than that of men. For black women, the NEET rate is at its highest of over 40%.

It is nothing new that education is one of the most important sectors in South Africa which needs to be improved. Where Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment assists with black unemployment, change from a grassroots level is slower and in need.

104 countries have at least one law restricting women’s choice of work. These range from not being able to drive buses with more the 14 seats in Moldova, to selling alcohol in Argentina.

Even once employed, women and particularly women fluoxymesterone cycle for women dan trist of colour are disadvantaged. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2015 Gender gap report, women today are earning the same as men ten years ago – half of men’s current earnings.

This is not to mention the amount of unpaid labour which women do. Taking care of young children is a time-consuming and strenuous job, one without which our world cannot function.

So why are women not compensated for such work?

Traditional gender roles have dictated that women are predominantly the caregivers, entrenching a pattern of women staying home while men work. Before the industrial revolution, this made sense as work was strenuous labour and men had the strength.

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However, it is not the case today, and hasn’t been for quite some time. Yet this history now plays a role in today’s gender inequality. The idea of domestic work being seen as women’s work is a major factor contributing to the Gender Pay Gap.

Globally, men’s participation in the labour force is 26% higher than women’s.

When it comes to succeeding in the workplace, there is once again a definite imbalance. Around the world, senior positions are dominated by white men. As one moves up the corporate ladder, the percentage of white men gets higher, whereas for white women, and even more so for men and women of colour, it drastically decreases. Only 32% of managers in South Africa are women.

There is clearly a long road ahead for the fight for gender equality. For South Africa and the world, the idea of the feminine needs to change. Women need to be given the same opportunities for education, for employment and for promotions. They need to be paid the same, and they need to be compensated for unpaid labour such as childcare.

Feminism is not women being better than men. Feminism is women being equal to men. Feminism is equality, something clearly still lacking in the modern day.

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