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Lizzo at the BET Awards 2019 - Red Carpet

Source: Paras Griffin/VMN19 / Getty

 

Fans are praising Lizzo for a recent lyric change she made in her new song “GRRRLS.”

The 3-time Grammy-award-winning singer was slammed with criticism after some fans from the disabled community spotted an “ableist slur” in the hit tune.

The song, which will appear on Lizzo’s forthcoming album “Special,” contains the word “spaz” in one verse, an offensive term often used against people with cerebral palsy or similar neurological disabilities.

According to the Mayo Clinic, painful disorders like cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis can impact an individual’s muscle tone or movement causing uncontrollable spasms, “exaggerated reflexes” or “spasticity of the limbs.”

Colloquially “spaz” has been used as a way to say “go crazy” in the past, and is more commonly heard in African American Vernacular English (AAVE). It’s also a slang term used to characterize someone behaving in a chaotic or erratic manner.

Spaz derives from the word “spastic” which is a medical term for spasm, but many people view the word as offensive or ableist.  The debate sparked a big question for many people on social media. What is ableism, exactly?

 

Ableism explained

Ableism is the belief that non-disabled people are superior or better than people with disabilities. It’s centered around the notion that individuals with disabilities “need fixing” in some way, according to the website Very Well Mind. Many people often use ableist slurs without thinking, like in the case of Lizzo, but those words can still cut deep for people living with disorders.

 

Ableism language can be broken down into two types. There are hurtful slurs used to describe someone’s physical disability or to poke fun at individuals who are neurodivergent, which is a person who has unique cognitive functioning. People with Autism, ADHD, and dyslexia are considered neurodivergent.

Words like “dumb” or “lame” can be seen as an insult to a disabled person because they refer to people who can’t communicate verbally or individuals with lower extremities that may not function properly.

You might have heard or unknowingly said phrases like “I’m so OCD” or that you’re “crazy” about a popular movie or song but those words minimize the experiences of people who are neurodivergent or living with mental disorders.

Fans on social media call out Lizzo for offensive lyrics

Prior to Lizzo changing the lyrics, several fans expressed outrage on social media over the use of the term.

A member of the Cerebral Palsy community urged for the singer to “do better.”

“Hey, @lizzo my disability Cerebral Palsy is literally classified as Spastic Diplegia (where spasticity refers to unending painful tightness in my legs) your new song makes me pretty angry + sad. S—doesn’t mean freaked out or crazy. It’s an ableist slur,” the upset Twitter fan’s comment read.

Another Twitter user chimed in:

“Hey @lizzo, as a long-time fan of yours that’s autistic and disabled Your recent song “grrls” made me really upset and disappointed, Hearing you use the slur “Spazz” REPEATEDLY! Is really harmful! Even if you didn’t know! The word “spazz” is an ABELIST term.”

The 34-year-old star quickly addressed the poor word choice on Instagram, telling fans that she had heard their concerns loud and “clear” and that a new version of “GRRRLS” would be released.

“It’s been brought to my attention that there is a harmful word in my new song “GRRRLS.” Let me make one thing clear: I never want to promote derogatory language,” she wrote.

“As a fat black woman in America, I’ve had many hateful words used against me so I understand the power words can have (whether intentionally or in my case unintentionally).”

The Texas native added:

“This is the result of me listening and taking action. As an influential artist, I’m dedicated to being a part of the change I’ve been waiting to see in the world.”

Following the announcement, many fans commended the singer for standing in solidarity with the disability community.

Others felt as though the criticism was unwarranted given that there has been a slew of artists who have used ableist slurs in their music in the past.

What do you think of Lizzo’s decision to change the lyrics to “GRRRLS?” Did she do the right thing in your opinion?

 

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