Chances are, thanks to all the pink ribbons, merchandise and uplifting stories from survivors printed in magazines, you already know that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But, in a post on AlterNet, Lucinda Marshall informs us that October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Why didn't we know this? Because, she explains, most people would rather be "aware" of breasts, even ailing ones, "than talk about black eyes and things that aren't supposed to go on behind closed doors."

Marshall surveyed 9 magazines from a grocery store rack —Essence, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, Women's Day, Women's World, Ladies Home Journal, Glamour, Vogue and Beyond Breast Cancer — and found that all of them trumpted breast cancer articles on the covers of their October issues, but only two also covered domestic violence. What's worse, she writes, "of the coverage dedicated to breast cancer, much of it was offensive, superficial, misleading, or flat-out wrong."

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Yes, wrong. Marshall found erroneous information about mammograms, no mention of the connection between breast cancer and hormone replacement therapy and absolutely no information on the carcinogenic chemicals common in consumer goods from lipstick to lotion.

The silence on these subjects mirrors the focus that both the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen for the Cure place on the profitable business of curing cancer rather than preventing it, which likely would hurt the bottom line of many of their biggest donors. Consumers are told that shopping will help find a cure — a message that is not lost on advertisers.

Many of the magazines had ads mentioning breast cancer, including a Ralph Lauren ad in Vogue of "young, mostly white women wearing skimpy thongs, the polo shirts and nothing else." (Proceeds from the polo shirts go to Fashion Targets Breast Cancer.) In addition, she found that the publications were full of survivor stories — mostly of young white women, "even though black women are more likely to die from the disease." Only two magazines Marshall purchased (Redbook and Essence) had any mention of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Marshall points out that one out of every three women worldwide is "beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime." In the US, the rate is one in four.

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So why do magazines focus on breast cancer? Is it because, as Marshall claims, "we shrink away from black eyes" but think of breasts as "highly marketable commodities"? Is it because there is often a stigma of shame surrounding domestic violence? Is it because the domestic violence ribbon is a more somber, bruise-like purple, as opposed to Pepto-Bismol pink?

Breast Cancer Sells [AlterNet]