Lizzo has broken her silence on the backlash she’s been facing following the release of her new song “GRRLS”, which featured an ableist slur.
Lizzo acknowledged the word is harmful and revealed she’s listened to fans and removed it from her song in a statement shared to her socials.
“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. As a fat black woman in America, I’ve had many hurtful words used against me so I overstand (sic) 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 dedicating to being part of the change I’ve been waiting to see in the world.”
ICYMI, Lizzo’s latest hit featured the lyric “Do you see this shit, Imma sp*zz”. It’s since been changed to “Do you see this shit, hold me back”.
“Sp*z” is a derogatory way of saying “spastic” and is used as an ableist slur. It’s extremely hurtful and often targeted at those with facial and body differences, especially with movement like involuntary muscle spasms. And it’s really *not* cool to use it casually in a song.
Hey @lizzo please remove the word "spaz" from your new song because it's a slur and really offensive to the disabled community— Shelby 🖤 (@Shelbykinsxo) June 10, 2022
From a disappointed fan 😔💔
The line was criticised by the disabled community for obvious reasons, and fans asked her to remove the slur. With this came some very messy discourse around ableism, AAVE and the standards we should hold different celebrities to.
While there’s no question that the term is definitely a slur, some pointed out that it isn’t as widely used in America as it is in the UK and Australia, especially with demeaning intentions. People just thought it was AAVE. Does that make it less offensive? No. But does that mean maybe this conversation requires a little bit more nuance? Yes.
What Lizzo said was indisputably wrong, but the way she was dragged for it online was definitely (at least partially) motivated by insidious racism.
It’s been very alarming to me the way (predominately) white women have talked about Lizzo and the lack of grace given to a marginalized woman vs the way we talk about white *and* thin celebrities who make mistakes.— Chanea (sha-nay) or The Madwoman in the Classroom (@heymrsbond) June 13, 2022
Very alarming indeed. https://t.co/Br3gjvaZM4
As fans pointed out, Lizzo has over time proven herself to be someone who speaks up for marginalised people. She fucked up and people educated her, and as we’ve seen now, she’s apologised for her mistake and removed the slur from her song. Which is why it feels a bit suss to see so many non-Black people dismiss Lizzo’s history and assume malicious intent, and then punish her for it.
Sometimes we CALL OUT
sometimes we call IN.
This is a classic calling in moment
& I’m not shocked that y’all can’t see that.
But I am kind of hurt.
Because I have been damn near thrown out when I should have been called in.
And it’s always ALWAYSS misogynoir.
— Tinu (@Tinu) June 13, 2022
Idk, "I'm disappointed in Lizzo" sounds a bit unforgiving to me if you take into account how she was likely unaware that the word was offensive. We can educate without incriminating, especially when its Lizzo, a known advocate for minority groups who demonstrably means well. https://t.co/guJQc3Ip27— Katherine 🌸 MSN (@katherineawrn) June 12, 2022
All I’m gonna say was if this was someone like Harry Styles, fans would afford more benefit of the doubt.
It’s a gleaming example of how people hold Black women to higher standards than everyone else. Especially when Black disabled women were already calling Lizzo in and didn’t need this to become a pile on.
But some of y’all sit READY to look down on someone, particularly a Black woman, who messes up and act like they are the worst person in the world for not having it all together or immediately knowing everything. The question is…do you know it all? Do you even know it all now?— autumn chicken | she/they/he (@dthadirector) June 12, 2022
Lizzo can say something ableist and also be a victim of marginalisation herself. As many Black disability activists pointed out, her being a Black woman in America (who is also viciously trolled on the daily) should be taken into account when discussing her use of the slur. Not as a means of dismissing it — again, she did say a slur — but as a way to make sure this is a civil discussion and not an excuse for racists to come for her.
You can call out harmful behaviour and still be mindful that the offending person might become a victim in this conversation too!
Anyway, Lizzo apologised and changed the lyrics of her song when she realised it was harmful — as fans knew she would. Next time something like this happens, let’s avoid piling on to a woman who we know a) means well and will apologise for her mistake, b) doesn’t have a history of being problematic and c) has a pretty vicious troll-base that are always dragging her anyway.