Lizzo’s Response to Being Called Out for Using an Ableist Slur Is a Reminder of Just How Easy It Is to Apologize
The musician promised to release a new version of her song "GRRRLS" without the offensive term
On Friday, Lizzo released her new single, “GRRRLS,” from her forthcoming album Special. But over the weekend, she faced backlash from fans who took issue with her use of an ableist slur in the track’s lyrics.
The slur in question — “spaz,” from a portion in the song where Lizzo sings, “Hold my bag, bitch, hold my bag/Do you see this shit? I’ma spaz” — is often used as a derogatory term for someone with cerebral palsy. Many fans took to social media to call out the musician for using the word and point out why it’s harmful to the disability and mental illness communities.
As one Twitter user wrote, “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. ‘Spaz’ doesn’t mean freaked out or crazy. It’s an ableist slur. It’s 2022. Do better.”
That message didn’t go unheard, and on Monday night, Lizzo announced that she would be releasing a new version of the song, replacing the offensive term with new lyrics.
“It’s been brought to my attention that there is a harmful word in my new song ‘GRRRLS,’” she wrote in a Twitter post. “Let me make one thing clear: I never want to promote derogatory language. As a fat Black woman in America, I’ve had many hurtful words used against me so I overstand the power words can have (whether intentionally or in my case, unintentionally,). I’m proud to say there’s a new version of GRRRLS with a lyric change. This is the result of me listening and taking action. As an influential artist I’m dedicated to being part of the change I’ve been waiting to see in the world.”
The whole interaction is a nice reminder that it’s extremely easy to hear criticism and respond to it without getting defensive or fearful about potentially being “canceled.” Instead of arguing over whether or not “spaz” is an offensive term, Lizzo simply listened to the representatives of the marginalized community telling her it is and accepted it as truth. That’s all anyone is looking for in situations like these! No one’s trying to “cancel” Lizzo for a genuine mistake. All it takes is something along the lines of, “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that was offensive, but now I know and I’ll stop saying it,” and now we can all move on.
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