Lizzo, a Grammy-winning singer and rapper who is seen by many of her fans as a champion of inclusivity, changed a lyric on a new song within days of its release after it was criticised for containing a word that is considered derogatory toward people with disabilities. The word in question was “disabled,” and the criticism led to Lizzo changing the lyric.
Lizzo used the term “spaz” in the first version of the song “Grrls,” which was published on Friday. This phrase was intended to convey the idea that she was about to lose control. The origin of the term may be traced back to spastic diplegia, a kind of cerebral palsy. Spastic diplegia is a disorder that results in motor deficits in the legs or arms.
Fans and disability campaigners called on Lizzo to replace what they termed an ableist slur. This word is viewed as especially hurtful in certain nations where it has a history of being used as a classroom taunt. Fans and disability advocates called on Lizzo to modify what they called an ableist slur.
On Monday, the song’s original version was replaced on the main music streaming platforms with a new version that has the phrase “Hold me back” in lieu of the original version’s lyrics. Lizzo claimed in a statement that she knew the repercussions of negative language, whether it was intentionally or unintentionally used against her, since “As a big black woman in America, I’ve had many painful comments used against me.” The statement was released on Instagram on Monday.
She first said, “Let me make one thing clear: I never want to encourage insulting language,” and then subsequently clarified her statement by stating, “This is the outcome of my listening and taking action.”
Fans felt that the phrase was especially out of character for Lizzo, who cultivates a friendly public presence and creates uplifting, positive, feel-good music that encourages self-acceptance. The criticism started nearly as soon as the song, which is the most recent single from her forthcoming album titled “Special,” was made available for download on Friday.
But the fast removal pleased a significant number of the fans and activists who had attacked her, since they believed it to be an example of someone listening to fresh information, learning from it, and acting on it.
In an interview, Hannah Diviney, who identifies as a disability advocate in Australia and is also a self-proclaimed admirer of Lizzo, said that hearing the term in the original version “made me feel incredibly uncomfortable.” For her, the term “spasticity” refers to a “unending, persistent, excruciating tightness in my legs and other portions of my body,” which makes her life “extremely tough and is not something I can manage.”
According to what she stated, though, she was “blown away” by Lizzo’s abrupt about-face. After hearing the criticism, the rapper did not take a defensive stance but rather took action, which earned her the reputation of being “a true genuine ally because she’s eager to learn.”
Ms. Diviney said, “I’m extremely delighted that Lizzo altering it has led to many more people discovering that it’s a slur,” and she echoed this sentiment. Even though I would have liked that she hadn’t used it in the first place, I’m delighted that it turned into somewhat of a learning moment. That’s arguably the best conclusion that could have happened.”
Ms. Diviney discovered, after one of her tweets was reshared more than a thousand times, that it is possible for certain individuals in the United States to lack the same level of understanding as people in other nations about the reasons why the phrase is deemed ableist.
The epithet has been “quite a frequent term of abuse for handicapped people for the greater part of 30 years in the U.K.,” according to Warren Kirwan, a spokesperson for Scope, a nonprofit in Britain that advocates for equality for people with disabilities. The name of the organisation was changed from The Spastic Society to Scope in 1994 so that it would not be associated with the derogatory term.
Even while the many cultural settings may help explain why Lizzo, an American, used the phrase, he emphasised that this does not justify it. According to him, though, after Lizzo had a better understanding of the term, she did a good job of handling the issue.
Mr. Kirwan praised her for taking responsibility for the error and making amends, saying, “It was in her ability to own that mistake and fix it, and well done for doing so.”
Many other artists have also committed the same error. Kanye West received backlash over the use of the phrase in the song “FourFiveSeconds,” which was released in 2015 and included Paul McCartney and Rihanna as collaborators. And in 2014, Weird Al Yankovic expressed his “deepest regret” for incorporating a comparable term in his song “Phrase Crimes,” claiming that he was unaware that the word was deemed derogatory and that he had no idea it was included in the tune.