For the past couple of weeks, I have been receiving the following email from Groupon in my inbox with the subject line “Here’s to Your Health:”
The email contains Groupons for the following:
- Mystic tanning
- Laser hair removal
- Cosmetic injections
I scrolled through it, thinking I might find something for some spirulina smoothies or some Barre Method classes – you know, keeping in line with the discount “Real Housewives of Sheboygan” theme of the mass email – but the closest they came to anything approaching a health-themed Groupon was for a massage.
And really, I don’t know about you, but injecting my face with a neurotoxin is not exactly what I think of when it comes to “healthy living.” The clinic must agree on some level, because check out the disclaimer: “Botox may cause serious side effects that can be life threatening, including problems swallowing, speaking, or breathing.” I may not be able to speak or breathe, but at least I’ll look youthful and dewy while suffocating in silence. The only lines on my face will be the ones of panic as my life slowly leaves my body. No angry 11s for this lady!
I laughed when I started getting these emails, but then I realized that Groupon has simply made the same mistake so many others have made, which is conflating “achieving the cultural standard of beauty” with “healthy.” The obvious example is fat-shaming, how many people do it under the guise of “health concerns” when what they really mean is “ew, fat is gross,” but I also thought a lot about how thin people often hear about how good they look, even though that thinness may be the result of an eating disorder or illness. I also thought a lot about how clear skin has become another synonym for good health, even though healthy people have acne all the time. Those are just the obvious examples; I’m sure you all can think of countless more.
Of course, there’s also the fact that a lot of what is done in the name of beauty is hardly healthy by any stretch of the imagination. I’m talking about severe caloric restriction, exercise addiction, the use of chemicals of all kinds all over our bodies, surgical procedures that could possibly kill you (and even if they don’t, still hurt like a bitch), shoes that permanently screw up your feet, and so on and so forth. Historically speaking, the pursuit of cultural beauty standards has not really lined up all that neatly with the things that promote good health and longevity.
(I haven’t even gone into the ablism of linking up “beauty” and “health” in such explicit terms, which could be a whole ‘nother post in and of itself.)
I can’t imagine there is really a dearth of Groupons for companies that are actually looking to market their healthy-lifestyles products, nor do I think there is any shortage of Groupon users who would be interested in getting a beauty-themed email that offered discounts on mani-pedis and laser hair removal. It would be great if the company – and by extension, the whole world – could stop acting like the two are interchangeable, because they aren’t.