Lilly's Blog: Q & A with Award Winning Author, Blogger, Activist & Shero Courtney Martin
I’ve quoted her many a time and admired her for many a year; this week I’m thrilled to interview Courtney Martin. Some of you may know her as the fearless Feministing.com blogger. Others may be familiar with her highly renowned books. Still others might have heard about her fantastically creative philanthropy.
But I think it is safe to say that everyone who has had the pleasure of meeting Courtney or reading her work knows her as an inspiration. I met Courtney two years ago through Rachel and it was Courtney who first suggested that I blog. She had complete faith in me and posted a review I wrote about an ABC Family TV show on Feministing.
I know how lucky I am to have mentors like Courtney and Rachel on my side. In this interview I hope to bring a bit of that relationship, and Courtney’s invaluable wisdom, to a larger audience.
What inspired you to write Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters? (For those of you who have not read PGSD, here’s a taste of what it is about.) In this case, was the political truly personal as well?
PGSD was the last book I wanted to write, truth be told. When I left Barnard College in 2002, I wanted to live with guys and get rid of all my mirrors. I was so tired of being so affected by body image issues, both for myself and my friends. But all great writing teachers tell you to write what you know, and slowly I began to come to terms with the fact that not only was this what I knew (sadly), but I had a lot of outrage about the complacency that so many women had around the issue. My parents always taught me to trust my own outrage, so eventually I channeled that into this book project.
Which celebrity/public figure is most emblematic of a Perfect Girl? Who
stands out in your mind as a Starving Daughter?
Great question. To me Tracy Flick, Reese Witherspoon’s character in Election, is the Perfect Girl–although maybe a tad bit too outwardly ambitious (a lot of perfect girls try to make it look like they’re not driven so as not to intimidate anyone). Britney Spears has, historically-speaking, been sort of a classic starving daughter–shaving her head, losing her sanity, being both too revealing and not honest with herself.
Your next book is called Do it Anyway: The New Generation of Activists.
What makes this generation of activist different from those of the past?
What’s more interesting to me is actually how we’re the same. Though we have different mediums (the internet, obviously) and different challenges (environmental justice, sexual assault in the military etc.), we are still compelled to sort of chip away at what is unjust in our society.
I think that our generation would like to be involved in activism with dramatic endings, fireworks, a sense of cinematic heroism, but instead we’re doing the grunt work just like our parents and grandparents. Social change isn’t all that glamorous at the end of the day.
How has new social media such as blogging changed the name of the game for activists?
In some ways, it’s changed everything. We’ve had so many experiences at Feministing where we were able to change something in a very fundamental way (get things pulled off the shelf at Walmart or a sexist educator fired or a bunch of money channeled into an urgent cause), using the immediacy and scale of the internet. In some ways, it hasn’t changed much. Activists are still most inspired by in-person experiences, we still have to change hearts and minds with experiential learning and cross-cultural dialogues. Humans are humans. We just stare at screens a lot more than we ever have before.
You write about so many aspects of what it means to be a young woman in America today. What issue do you find most pressing?
I can’t choose just one. I think what’s cool about feminism is its intersectional approach, which says that you can’t look at any one issue in isolation. Reproductive justice, for example, is really critical right now, but when you talk about repro justice you’re also talking about racism and economic inequality and religion and sex education and…
Give us some good news. What makes you optimistic about the future? Who inspires you today?
You do Lilly! Seriously, badass young women (and a few good men) that I meet all over the country make me feel super inspired about what the next decades are going to bring in terms of activism and art–my faves. There is so much passion and innovation, such a local/global duality to our thinking, so many ways to connect and inspire one another. It’s a great time to be alive and pissed off and full of joy all at the same time.
Do you have any advice for young (pre-college) feminists?
Trust your own outrage, as my parents taught me. Don’t try to be everything to everybody. Try to find where your “deep gladness meets the world’s deep need,” and Parker Palmer, one of my favorite authors talks about in his book, Let Your Life Speak. Don’t underestimate the importance of dance parties.
In lots of interviews, people are asked what items they would bring to a desert island. Been there done that; what three things would you banish to a desert island?
Nice. Snobbery, Stupak, and Renee Zellweger.
**This interview was originally posted on April 25, 2010.
Lilly is a high school senior and guest blogger for RachelSimmons.com. Read more about her here.