Cosmetic surgery is a thriving industry worldwide and Thailand is one of the market leaders. However, research which has explored issues concerning cosmetic surgery largely focuses on that of females. Moreover, it revolves around surveying clients, either quantitatively or qualitatively, rather than investigating the text which they consume. Even among the studies examining such text, they are predominantly conducted with the text published in offline media and within a Western context.
Therefore, the current study seeks to address such knowledge gaps by concentrating on online texts which male clients possibly consult for cosmetic surgery in Thailand. Since it is required by law that cosmetic surgery be conducted within authorised medical establishments, Thai cosmetic hospitals play a vital role in pursuing particular discursive strategies to communicate with clients. It is those strategies which the present study intends to investigate. To be exact, it intends to answer the following research questions: (1) What discursive strategies are employed by Thai cosmetic hospitals to propagate the ideologies about cosmetic surgery for masculinity enhancement? and (2) How do such strategies operate?
To answer the first question, the present study employs Van Dijk’s conception of the ideological square. It consists of how to: (1) emphasise our good things, (2) de-emphasise our bad things, (3) emphasise their bad things and (4) de-emphasise their good things. This framework is useful in providing a general principle of how hospitals are likely to communicate with clients. However, an additional issue may arise with regard to, for example, in which way hospitals actually emphasise the good things of cosmetic surgery. Such an issue connects with the second research question. Hence, the other framework, Taylor’s six-segment message strategy model, comes into play by functioning as a specific tool to answer it. The model consists of the ego, social, sensory, routine, acute need, and ration message strategies.
Methodologically, the present study utilises a corpus-assisted discourse analysis which amalgamates a quantitative method (the identification of significant keywords and collocations) into a qualitative analysis (the investigation of data extracts containing those significant lexical items). The corpus consists of the English version of webpage content belonging to 20 Thai hospitals with a total number of 73,168 words.
The findings reveal that, firstly, to emphasise the good things of cosmetic surgery, hospitals implement the ego, social, sensory and ration strategies. Secondly, to de-emphasise the bad things of post-operative complications, hospitals employ the ration strategy. Thirdly, to emphasise the bad things of not undergoing cosmetic surgery, hospitals adopt the ego strategy. Fourthly, to de-emphasise the good things of other means which are perceived as a rival to cosmetic surgery, hospitals pursue the ego and ration strategies. Overall, a preponderance of these strategies revolves around the notion of masculinity, which is conceptualised as the ideology concerning how to feel like a man, act like a man and have a body touted as a man.
The current study makes a theoretical and practical contribution. Theoretically, it is among the first which triangulates the discourse and the communication frameworks to analyse gender-related discourse pertaining to cosmetic surgery for masculinity enhancement in the Thai context. Practically, it hopes to raise awareness and promote media literacy among male clients about how cosmetic hospitals manifest and medicalise the ideology of masculinity via their online platforms.