Courtney Martin

Courtney E. Martin is a Prospect senior correspondent. She is the author of Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists (Beacon Press). You can read more about her work at

Recent Articles

Sarah Palin's Retrograde Gender Politics

Sarah Palin's role in McCain's campaign is to reinforce traditional ideas of masculinity and femininity.

Observers of contemporary politics, especially those who follow the high drama of presidential campaigns, are plagued by many questions. Most vexing, perhaps, are those concerned with the role of gender in public life. Why is testosterone the coveted elixir of political power? More specifically, what anxieties have made the ‘wimp factor' one of the most important variables in determining the outcomes of elections? First coined in 1988, this phrase…denotes a male candidate's deficient manhood. --Stephen Ducat, The Wimp Factor The McCain campaign has spent the last two weeks trying to convince American voters that Sarah Palin is just the jolt of estrogen that the country needs. She has five kids; long, pretty hair; and the teeth-gritting, fist-clenching fierceness of a mother about to pull a car off her toddler. Reuters, in fact, reports that after her deus ex machina appearance at the Republican National Convention, McCain suddenly shot up 12 points ahead of Obama with white women. (He...

Sex Education as Liberation

The bitter debate over teaching abstinence-only in schools has gotten tired and myopic. It's time to improve and expand our notion of what sex ed means.

The debate over abstinence-only education usually breaks down pretty predictably. On one side, you have social conservatives who claim, "Abstinence-only sex education is the only way to protect young people from unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and emotional turmoil. Sex is sacred and must be saved for marriage." And on the other, you have liberal folks like myself who respond, "Studies actually show that abstinence-only sex education is less effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies and STIs than comprehensive sex education. Sure, teenagers probably shouldn't be having sex, but they are, so we better educate them to protect themselves." In their own ways, these perspectives are both myopic, and I'm wondering if it's time to take a new approach to the conversation. We've debated ourselves into a tizzy, framing sexual activity as the shared -- whether preventable or inevitable -- evil, throwing poison darts of statistics and dogma back and forth. In the...

Are We Neglecting the Next Activist Generation?

While it's great that young people are so excited about the Democratic candidate this year, progressives need to focus on encouraging young activists to do non-Obama-centric work.

Sometimes it seems as if Obama's light is so bright that progressives are being blinded. As we pump money into his campaign and sing his praises from office watercoolers to family reunions, we seem to be settling into a smug sort of mono-vision. So long deprived of a truly compelling candidate, progressives can only revel -- perhaps prematurely -- in the idea that they will finally get to be the big winners come November. But what about the November four years from now? And the one after that? And what about the November when Barack and Michelle's daughter, Sasha, is old enough to run for president? Michael Connery, a blogger at Future Majority and author of Youth to Power: How Today's Young Voters are Building Tomorrow's Progressive Majority , has his eyes on a much more distant prize than the November election. He dreams not of late-night revelry on Nov. 2 but of a progressive machine -- the kind of machine that conservatives have enjoyed for decades. As the imagined machines’...

The Aisle of Least Resistance

What am I to make of my commitment to not participate in a sexist, historically racist institution when my own gay friends are rushing to the altar?

First it was my history professor friend from Indiana -- "We're heading to CA for a friend's wedding (and while we're there ... we're getting married, too!)" she emailed me, using an uncharacteristic amount of exclamation points throughout. Then it was a colleague from Austin -- "busy summer with planning a San Francisco wedding in July :) (hurrah for the CA Supreme Court)." Now it looks like Massachusetts will become the next summer vacation state of choice for gay couples looking to tie the knot; last Tuesday the state senate voted to repeal a 1913 law that kept out-of-state same-sex couples from marrying there. I'm happy for them. I really am. But part of me can't help but feel a little confused by the whole affair. You see, I'm a 28-year-old feminist who apparently wears a sign on my forehead that says, "Ask me when I'm going to get engaged." For the past eight years, I've been in a relationship with a great human being who happens to be male. We share taste in movies, a rascally...

Obama Is Not a God

Liberals need to understand that Obama can never live up to his golden image -- but they should still hold him accountable for the campaign promises he's made.

Barack Obama's rejection of public campaign financing and his complex communication about his plan for Iraq have been lampooned on late-night shows, discussed at Sunday-morning roundtables, and ridiculed by right-wing shock jocks as yet another "flip flop" by a Democratic hopeful. But perhaps nowhere have these issues been hotter topics than in alternative media, from Laura Flanders' GRITtv to the ever pugnacious, to youth civic blogs like Future Majority, where community organizer Biko Baker writes, "This week Obama has proven that he won't be right (no pun intended) on every issue. In fact after this week it's becoming clear that he is going to be wrong a lot more than we would like him to be." The public reaction has got me thinking about the inevitable tarnishing of Obama's golden image. His profound charisma, his gift for public speaking, and his inspiring biography have led a country of lefty voters, especially the young, to idolize him. Obama maintained this...