Yearning for Better Coverage of Polygamists

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yfz200.jpgToday the New York Times teased a Sunday magazine feature on the young women of the the Yearning for Zion Ranch—the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints‘ (FLDS) Texas compund that was raided in April.

Times photographer Stephanie Sinclair, the teaser says, “was given rare and intimate access to some of the young women who have found themselves at the center of the often-bilious battle between the state of Texas and the F.L.D.S.” The result is an eye-catching essay of 16 photographs.

Contrast is really what makes these photos work so well artistically. The juxtaposition of the pastel prairie-style dresses against a run-of-the-mill suburban ranch house lends an appealingly surreal quality, reminiscent of the uncanniness of Diane Arbus‘ work and the magic realism of Gregory Crewdson‘s. But what are those strange-looking ladies really like?

The teaser opens with 16-year-old Teresa Jeffs, “hitch[ing] up her navy blue prairie dress and hoisted herself into the crooked arms of a live oak tree that sits in front of the Schleicher County Courthouse in Eldorado, Tex.” One of the photos shows her jumping on a trampoline. The implication is clear: Teresa and the other teenage girls at the Yearning for Zion Ranch have been forced to become adults (and possibly mothers) before they’re ready.

The photos are neat and all, but as for reporting, I’m kind of hoping for more. I’ve seen pictures of the prairie garb and the famous poof-do. I’ve talked to people who think that the polygamy is corrupt, and I’ve heard FLDS women on the news state their numbingly rehearsed defense of their lifestyle. And I’ve watched Big Love—which has some stunningly well-developed characters (for reals). But for all the to-do about the ranch raid, I have yet to see deep reporting on the real-life FLDS women. And maybe I never will. From the Times teaser:

We may never know much about the individual circumstances of the young women in these pages or, most important, whether the relationships that carried some of them into motherhood were forced upon them. The women Sinclair met offered no information about the nature of their marriages or who the fathers of their children are.

But shouldn’t we at least try? Here’s hoping the New York Times does this weekend.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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