Miserable-mommy porn

What is up with the art in New York magazine's story about an online mothers group?

Published July 18, 2006 8:00PM (EDT)

There is so much to say about Emily Nussbaum's New York magazine story about the message boards at Urban Baby. So much, in fact, that I can't bring myself to even start here -- at least not until I've had several stiff drinks and a few days to consider what I've just read. Suffice it to say that if you are jonesing for a depressing -- like, stomach-churningly squalid -- portrait of urban motherhood, marriage and class, you should check out this piece immediately.

The one question I can bring myself to ask Broadsheet readers today is: What is up with the photographs illustrating this piece? Most notably, the one that kicks off the piece's Web site layout? It's part of a "My Name Is Mommy" series that runs through the piece, by Gail Albert Halaban, courtesy of the Robert Mann Gallery, so clearly it's art, not taken specifically for this feature. And I suppose it does perfectly match the Gothic pitch of the rotted-out domestic landscape depicted in the story. But how many people are going to be reading the whole eight-page piece, and how many are going to be staring goggle-eyed at the creepily eroticized images of female torment depicted inside? Naked unhappy John Currin-ish pregnant woman? Check. Paunchy toddler leaning over to suck at her swollen breast? Check. Mussed hair and bed? Check. Ghoulish doll between mom's legs? Check. Dull ache of ambient despair that strikes suddenly, square in the forehead, until you sit down and have a cool drink of water? Check.

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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