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

Those Beliefs Look Good on You

When it comes to attracting disengaged young people to political movements, let's face it: appearances matter.

(Flickr/Candice Wouters)
There has been an unmistakable groundswell lately of young women reflecting on and reclaiming feminism, sometimes in the unlikeliest places. Lady Gaga has caused a sensation, not just with her bizarre outfits but her bold embrace of a feminist identity in interviews. Britney Spears may not be calling herself a feminist, but the fact that she insisted on showing an airbrushed photo of herself right beside the real unperfected deal in a new ad has everyone buzzing. And last month, three young journalists wrote of their shared discovery that their employer, Newsweek , had been sued by its female employees in 1970 for gender discrimination. The young reporters' biggest surprise? How much hasn't changed in the time since 46 brave "dollies" -- as they were called then -- took their outrage to the courts. It's what Jane O'Reilly would call a "click moment" -- a flash "of recognition, that parenthesis of truth around a little thing that completes the puzzle of reality in women's minds." O'...

The Unhappiness Trap

We need to stop asking why women are so miserable and start looking at the many who create their own joy.

Dena Simmons, right, with her sister. Simmons is a graduate student in New York.
"Why aren't women happy?" That question has become as ubiquitous and irritating as "What do women want?" Never mind that women are not one homogeneous focus group. Do you ever hear the mainstream media sounding the traffic-boosting sirens of alarm over men's level of unhappiness? No, they're too busy covering their infidelity, violence, and skyrocketing unemployment rates. And if this isn't unhappiness, what is? But instead of analyzing male malaise, most self-help gurus are more focused on turning women's frowns upside down. Guys like Marcus Buckingham, author of Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently , take their show on the road. News anchors and talk-show hosts keep wondering, "Why are American women so grumpy?" Many women, too, still keep falling into the trap of trying to answer that question. In the latest issue of More magazine, feminist writer Naomi Wolf argues that, yes, contemporary women are dissatisfied, but for good reason...

The Paradox of Reproductive Choice

The birth-control pill afforded us great freedom but also the anxiety that comes along with having so much control over if and when we procreate.

(Flickr/Jenny Lee Silver)
This year -- the year I turned 30 -- the birth-control pill is turning 50. As Elaine Tyler May points out in her new book, America and the Pill , that little technology promised a whole lot of change -- feminist liberation, angst-free sex, world peace -- that it hasn't quite delivered. Another thing that the pill didn't do was eradicate the modern woman's wrestle with those tricky twins: time and fertility. I've recently left my 20s behind and people have started asking me if I'm going to procreate. I don't blame them. I'm acutely aware of the fact that time is already not on my side. Most studies indicate that fertility takes a downturn for most women in their 30s; most studies also indicate that men's sperm become less hearty as well. This race against time is nothing new for people who want to have children but also want to enjoy their work, leisure, and autonomy. We still don't have federal legislation or a workplace culture that supports working families. We still haven't figured...

A Manifesta Revisited

A decade ago, Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards published their breakthrough work and became energetic leaders of feminism's third wave. Now, they're helping a younger generation of women make its way.

Amy Richards and Jennifer Baumgardner (Ali Price)
"Babies born on this day are automatically given their father's name. … The only prestigious physical activity for girls is cheerleading or being a drum majorette. … If a pregnancy happens, an enterprising gal can get a legal abortion only if she lives in New York or is rich enough to fly there, or Cuba, London, or Scandinavia. … Lesbians are rarely 'out,' except in certain bars owned by organized crime." This is how Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards describe the year of their birth, 1970, in their turn-of-the-millennium feminist classic, Manifesta . Jen and Amy, as they are affectionately known, began the book that crystallized the third wave with the above description of "the baptismal moment of a decade that would change dramatically the lives of American women." A 10th anniversary edition of Manifesta , updated and with a new preface added, has just been released by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. And in many ways, our last decade was also a baptismal moment of...

A Challenge to American Women

We have a moral obligation to focus on international women's uplift, but we must also act locally.

Hermaine Myrie, a CNA in Glastonbury, Conn., stands with fellow health care workers to protest massive cuts for state nursing homes and other health care providers. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Read our profiles of five U.S. groups advocating for equality . In a recent op-ed in The Washington Post , Jessica Valenti writes about American women's tendency to look far across the oceans to get their pity fix while ignoring the sexism that still pervades our very own communities, classrooms, and workplaces. "We're suffering under the mass delusion that women in America have achieved equality," Valenti writes, arguing that we fall into this trap because it's a "feel-good illusion." You'd be hard-pressed to find a day on which that illusion is more prominent than today -- International Women's Day. What began as a socialist political event has evolved into a global reckoning with the work still to be done to empower women -- economically and otherwise. The United Nations' designated theme this year is "equal rights, equal opportunities: progress for all." You can bet that university women's centers, feminist philanthropists, and nonprofit organizations all over the United States...