They run a business that arouses strong feelings in many people,‚ÄĚ says Anita Andersson, who just took her doctorate at Theme Health, Link√∂ping University.

She studied how beauty surgery is presented in order to achieve cultural legitimacy. What arguments are used to make it seem like a feasible, plausible, attractive, and meaningful practice?

Her material consists, on the one hand, of the clinics’ own presentations and, on the other hand, articles in the weeklies and tabloid press. It’s a matter of creating a justification and credibility for these activities and to make them seem attractive to the general public.

Anita Andersson maintains that three culturally viable values are central here: freedom, health, and naturalness.

‚ÄúBoth advocates and critics of beauty surgery relate to these universal values, but they fill them with different meaning.‚ÄĚ

To advocates, freedom is precisely the right to choose what you look like. To critics, freedom is to feel that you are good enough as you are, not to have to live up to some ideal of beauty.

Naturalness, to advocates, is to be able to choose a body that looks natural, that you feel good in, even though it was created by surgical operation. To critics, bodies that have not undergone aesthetic surgery are more natural.

Health, finally, is associated with self-esteem and mental well-being. To advocates of aesthetic surgery, this is achieved precisely by correcting your imperfections and feeling that you are a more beautiful person. Critics, on the other hand, claim that the business creates poor self-esteem in people by emphasizing looks so much.

Proponents of aesthetic surgery maintain that beauty can be determined objectively, regardless of shifting fashions and cultural peculiarities. There is an objective ideal­-and it is now technologically possible to realize it. At the same time, the business argues for a subjective freedom of choice. Thanks to aesthetic surgery, everyone can now look the way they want to look; you don’t have to be satisfied with the body you were given.

Aesthetic surgery has the potential to grow even more, according to Anita Andersson.

‚ÄúTraditionally the major target group has been women, but now the marketing is turning to men. Looks are presented as visual capital that is important in how successful we are in our social lives and in our careers.‚ÄĚ

The dissertation is titled Aesthetics at Clinics: The Legitimizing Rhetoric of Aesthetic Surgery. Anita Andersson defended the thesis on April 8. She can be reached at phone: +46 13-28 29 44 and e-mail: anian@tema.liu.se.