Interview with Courtney E. Martin

Meet Courtney E. Martin, who graced the TED stage to talk about feminism and wanted to be a part-time doctor, part-time waitress when she grew up. In the spirit of big q’s, ask yourself some of the questions Courtney answered, and tell us how you are working on purpose.

Name: Courtney E. Martin

Current occupation/title: Writer, speaker

A song on the soundtrack of my life: Oh Happy Day!

When I was young, I wanted to be: Part-time doctor, part-time waitress

In high school, I would have been voted “most likely to be…”: Strangely, the senior superlatives I really did win were "biggest heart" and "best dressed." I think this was because I cried in the hallways whenever there was a fight and I cultivated a sort of hip hop meets Pretty in Pink aesthetic, if you can imagine that. Job-wise, as boring as it sounds, I think my peers would have predicted that I would become a writer.

What was your first job? Concession stand at a movie theater

What’s your favorite career mistake? I'm not sure this counts as a mistake, per se, but I've learned the most from advertising my ignorance on certain issues while blogging at Feministing. For example, I once used the word "invalid" in a post and was inundated with feedback (some fairly harsh) from disability rights activists. After I got over feeling like a terrible human being, I started learning a lot about this amazing field and it's enhanced my life and my writing in innumerable ways.

What socially significant career accomplishment are you most proud of, thus far? I'm most proud of the relationships I've created with the activists featured in my latest book, Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists. Unlike many journalists, I feel compelled to acknowledge and act on the complexities inherent in the writer-subject relationship. I found funding to bring them together for a retreat experience, thus forming a community that extends beyond the book itself. Now we've all collaborated in different ways and I believe that they each feel enriched, not objectified by the process.

What is one book OR film that significantly influenced your path and why? Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder was a huge model for me as I was writing Do It Anyway, and will continue to be, in whatever work I do. I just thought it was such a tremendous feat of portraiture, dealing with so many complex moral and social issues.

Who is one person whose changemaking career you greatly admire and why? Just one? That's hard. As a writer, I really look up to the work of Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine among other amazing books. She is such a visionary, so studied, and still managed to boil her arguments down into graspable and memorable nuggets.

Courtney MartinCourtney E. Martin is an author, blogger, and speaker. Her most recent book Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists was published by Beacon Press last fall. She also co-edited the anthology CLICK: Moments When We Became Feminist. Courtney has lectured on her award-winning first book, Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women, at over 50 universities throughout the nation. She is also an editor at, and a Senior Correspondent for The American Prospect. Courtney has appeared on the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, MSNBC, and The O’Reilly Factor, and is the recipient of the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics, a residency from the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Centre, and is a TED speaker. Read more about her work at