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

The Myth of the Fairer Sex

Women, especially self-proclaimed feminists, must own the truth about our gender's capacity for violence if we are ever going to be effective in ending it.

(AP Photo/Mike Silva)
According to new research unveiled this month, women were far more involved in the atrocities committed during the Holocaust than previously thought. Wendy Lower, an American historian living in Munich, uncovered that thousands of German women ("a conservative estimate") willingly went out to the Nazi-occupied eastern territories to take part in the "war effort," otherwise known as genocide. This news is disturbing, to be sure, but it's also not surprising. Anyone who reacts with shock to the reality that women have the capacity to be immoral, malicious, and violent -- just like the guys -- hasn't paid enough attention in history class, much less to the nightly news. Yes, men are behind some of the most violent moments that make headlines, but women also have the capacity for violence and are so often passive observers in the face of it -- particularly when it's structural, not physical. The " banality of evil ," as Hannah Arendt described it, is alive and well in the women who sit by...

When Nation-Building Becomes Cowardly Escape

Americans should be outraged that shoddy infrastructure and broken promises will be our legacy in Iraq.

If you walk down Falluja's busiest streets, you are likely to travel parallel with open trenches that smell of putrid waste. These trenches, vestiges of a planned but unfinished sewage treatment system, are more than an eyesore and an assault on the olfactory senses. They are a reminder of America's broken promises in the ongoing nation-building effort in Iraq. The New York Times reported last week that many of the most fundamental needs of the Iraqi people, the most vital infrastructure projects, have been abandoned. Of the long-planned sewage system, for example, the Times reports, "After more than six years of work, $104 million spent, and without having connected a single house, American reconstruction officials have decided to leave the troubled system only partly finished, infuriating many city residents." The project was initially supposed to treat waste for Falluja's entire population (200,000 people), with room to grow by 50 percent. Now it will, at best, serve 4,300, before...

Supreme Court Stifles Humanitarian Groups

The ruling in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project restricts aid and development groups -- and leaves all of us more vulnerable to terrorism.

According to the Supreme Court, many of our world's most esteemed Nobel Peace Prize winners just might be criminals. Or at least that's what it seems when one looks at the broad language in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project . Decided a week ago today, the Supreme Court upheld a federal law that makes it a crime to provide "material support" to any foreign organization that the government designates a terrorist group. The decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project was a 6-3 split, with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen G. Breyer in the minority. Because the definition of material support includes everything from providing aid to distributing literature to political advocacy, the ruling is a major blow to human-rights and nonviolent communication organizations. It is also a step in the wrong direction for the post-September 11 world. The law essentially criminalizes promoting dialogue in conflict zones and undermines efforts to provide nonviolent solutions...

The Unlucky Luck of the 2010 Graduate

What does success really mean to a young American lucky enough to go to school but unlucky enough to be graduating at this economic moment?

(iStock Photo)
As one of my friends described her graduation last week, she began to tailspin about how successful all of her classmates seemed. One had beat the odds by leaving her Indian reservation and becoming the first in her family to get a college degree. Another had started a charter school. Yet another was working with the White House already. In comparison, my friend reasoned, she had done little worth mentioning. She was getting her Ph.D. from Harvard. I teased her that she had Harvard dysmorphic disorder. Whereas with body dysmorphic disorder, a person sees herself as fat no matter how thin she gets, it was as if my friend saw herself as unaccomplished no matter how many accolades and degrees she acquired. It was such an extreme example of how all perceptions of success are so relative, of how even gaining entry into the most rarified of spaces can still leave one feeling unworthy. Alain de Botton famously dubbed this "status anxiety" which he defined as "A worry? that we are failing to...

The Population Debate Gets Personal

It's time to take a hard look at the environmental ramifications of First World procreation.

A newborn wears a cloth diaper. (Flickr/Lance McCord)
Let's be honest, babies aren't known for being camera-shy, but they've really been hogging the spotlight as of late. There's that new Focus Features film, Babies . And then last week The New York Times Sunday Magazine explored their morality in a cover story chock-full of images of cartoonishly big-eyed infants. But don't be fooled by their innocent appearance. While fertility rates have been consistently dropping worldwide over the last 10 years, we're still way over budget when it comes to those chubby little humans. Last year, according to the Global Footprint Network, 6.8 billion of us consumed the renewable resources of 1.4 Earths. Overpopulation is a controversial topic for a slew of reasons, not the least of which is that those who've taken up the cause have often been racist, classist, xenophobic, and sexist. I won't belabor the history here; Mother Jones ' recent cover story , "The Last Taboo," and related online forum (of which I was a part) are good places to find a more...