Grammy-winning singer and rapper Lizzo is releasing new tracks in anticipation of her upcoming album, Special. Her single “About Damn Time” has become the song of the summer, and the latest release “Grrrls” was initially met with the same enthusiasm—until fans and disability advocates pointed out that a lyric in the song contained an ableist slur.
The original version of the song used a derogatory word for the disability spastic diplegia, which is a form of cerebral palsy that can affect motor control in the legs. Upon hearing the lyrics, fans took to social media to express their disappointment in Lizzo for using the word, highlighting its offensive nature and explaining why.
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 a ABELIST term pic.twitter.com/7QSBsSMH7U
— Hayley ✨🏴☠️ OFMD (@zittiblackbeard) June 11, 2022
Lizzo listened to the criticism. Instead of getting defensive and doubling down on the song, she took the opportunity to learn and do something about it. “Grrrls” was released on a Friday, and by the following Monday, it was updated on streaming services and digital stores. The song removed the slur and replaced it with the line “Hold me back.”
The singer addressed the controversy on social media. “It’s been brought to my attention that there is a harmful word in my new song ‘Grrrls,’” she wrote. “Let me make one thing clear: I never want to promote derogatory language.” Lizzo went on to explain that words have been used against her as a fat Black woman living in America, and she understands their power. “I’m proud to say there’s a new version of ‘Grrrls’ with a lyric change. This is a 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.”
Fans lauded Lizzo for her willingness to listen and make a change; she set a good example of how someone can be wrong but still learn and then act on new information. “Thank you so much for hearing us Lizzo and for understanding that this was only ever meant gently and being open to learning, it honestly means the world,” writer and disability advocate Hannah Diviney tweeted. “You’re a real true ally.”
Grammy-winning singer and rapper Lizzo released her latest single, “Grrrls.”
Soon after its release, the song was criticized by fans and disability advocates for having a derogatory word for the disability spastic diplegia.
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. ‘Spaz’ doesn’t mean freaked out or crazy. It’s an ableist slur. It’s 2022. Do better.
— Hannah Diviney (@hannah_diviney) June 12, 2022
Lizzo listened to the criticism and replaced the offensive lyric. A new version of the song was available just a few days later, along with a statement from the singer.
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Her response was met with gratitude and praise.
I’m going to cry 😭 Thank you so much for hearing us Lizzo and for understanding that this was only ever meant gently and being open to learning, it honestly means the world ❤️. You’re a real true ally https://t.co/RbQCbAwpR6
— Hannah Diviney (@hannah_diviney) June 13, 2022