Lizzo is proof that being an ally is about action, not words. The singer announced on Monday that she would be releasing a new version of her single “GRRRLS” after facing online backlash for a lyric in the song that has ableist meaning.
Initially dropped on June 10, “GRRRLS” is the second single from Lizzo’s forthcoming album Special, out next month. In the original version of the song, Lizzo sings in the opening verse: “Hold my bag, b*tch / Hold my bag / Do you see this sh*t? / I’m a spaz / I’m about to knock somebody out.”
A day later, disability advocate Hannah Diviney tweeted Lizzo to criticize the use of the word “spaz” in the lyrics, noting that the word is an “ableist slur.”
“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,” wrote Hannah. “‘Spaz’ doesn’t mean freaked out or crazy. It’s an ableist slur. It’s 2022. Do better.”
Spasticity is a medical condition in which the muscles abnormally stiffen or tighten, often causing severe discomfort or pain and can interfere with one’s ability to move or speak. “Spaz,” a shortened slang term for “spastic,” refers to someone losing physical or emotional control — the word can be used offensively and is considered to be an ableist slur.
“I have CP as well,” wrote one Twitter user @ChrisDisability in the replies to Hannah’s tweet. “I was born in England and in the early-mid 90s it was extremely common to throw around ‘spastic’ or ‘spaz’ the way Americans (used to) use the R word. I don’t think it’s quite as popular here in the U.S.”
(Many pointed out in the replies that Hannah’s use of the word “crazy” in her initial tweet to Lizzo should also be criticized, as it can also be considered an ableist term. “Quite a few people have rightfully pointed this out and I’m so grateful to everyone for doing so!” Hannah acknowledged. “Even as a disabled person myself, I still have SO much to learn about experiences/language within our community and I will be removing both of these words from my vocabulary.”)