The Power of Language in Health and Wellness with Maxine Ali | #83

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Click here to access a written transcript of this episode.

The language we use has a big impact on how we view the world around us and how we view ourselves. Through language, we have the power to both uplift and harm others, even unintentionally.

As a proponent of striving to use inclusive language whenever possible, I was excited to speak with linguist Maxine Ali for this episode. Maxine specializes in the relationship between language, health, and culture through a feminist lens, and she had many insights to share.

We discussed:

  • How Maxine got into linguistics with a specialization in the language of health.
  • The ways the language we use can shape how we perceive our reality.
  • The wellness culture idea that we are all projects that have to constantly be worked on.
  • Our reluctance to detach from language, even when we’re informed it’s harming people.
  • How getting things wrong with language we use is to be expected.
  • The way metaphor is used to describe illness.
  • How biases, particularly sexism, show up in research.
  • The promotion of aesthetics over well-being in wellness culture due to the impact of the male gaze.
  • The roles of morality and privilege in health and wellness.
  • The issue with claiming that fitness is for everybody but not making spaces that are accessible to everybody.
  • How we can start to counteract the biases inherent in language.

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Maxine wears a red shirt and holds one hand up to her hair, laughing and looking off camera

Maxine Ali (she/her) is a linguist specializing in the relationship between language, health, and culture through a feminist lens. Her current research explores the language of wellness, highlighting the dark side of our culture’s obsession with “perfect” health. You can keep up with Maxine on her website and Instagram.

Did you benefit from this episode? You can show your appreciation by supporting Maxine’s work. Consider giving Maxine a follow on her Instagram.

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