Music

People Are Upset That Beyoncé’s ‘Renaissance’ Has The Same Ableist Slur Lizzo Recently Removed From ‘Grrrls’

Update: Beyoncé’s team has confirmed the “Heated” lyric will be changed, saying in a statement on August 1, “The word, not used intentionally in a harmful way, will be replaced.”

The original post follows below.

Beyoncé’s new album Renaissance is so far universally beloved, although some listeners have noticed one aspect of it they find troubling: In one section of the song “Heated,” Beyoncé says, “Spazzin’ on that ass, spaz on that ass / Fan me quick, girl, I need my glass.”

The use of the word “spaz” is particularly noteworthy since Lizzo just received criticism for including the word on “Grrrls” and promptly changed the song’s lyrics in response. Now, people are calling out Beyoncé, including Hannah Diviney, the writer and disability advocate whose tweet brought significant attention to Lizzo’s lyrical issue.

For those unfamiliar with the term, Merriam-Webster defines it as “one who is inept” and categorizes it as “slang, often offensive.” In 2007, Benjamin Zimmer, editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press, noted that in the US in the 1960s, usage of the word shifted “from its original sense of ‘spastic or physically uncoordinated person’ to something more like ‘nerdy, weird, or uncool person.'” The word is derived from “spastic” and “spasticity,” of which a 2015 paper published by the National Library Of Medicine notes, “Spasticity is a velocity-dependent increase in muscle tone and uncontrolled, repetitive, involuntary contractions of skeletal muscles. Spasticity presents as upper motor neuron symptoms in patients with central nervous system pathology such as stroke, spinal cord injury, brain injury, or multiple sclerosis.”

In response to Lizzo, Diviney explained the issue with the word, tweeting, “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.” In a July 30 tweet in response to the Beyoncé song, she wrote, “So @Beyonce used the word ‘spaz’ in her new song Heated. Feels like a slap in the face to me, the disabled community & the progress we tried to make with Lizzo. Guess I’ll just keep telling the whole industry to ‘do better’ until ableist slurs disappear from music [broken heart emoji].”

Diviney expanded on those points in an opinion piece published on The Guardian today, writing in part:

“Beyoncé’s commitment to storytelling musically and visually is unparalleled, as is her power to have the world paying attention to the narratives, struggles and nuanced lived experience of being a black woman – a world I can only ever understand as an ally, and have no desire to overshadow.

But that doesn’t excuse her use of ableist language – language that gets used and ignored all too often. Language you can be sure I will never ignore, no matter who it comes from or what the circumstances are. It doesn’t excuse the fact that the teams of people involved in making this album somehow missed all the noise the disabled community made only six weeks ago when Lizzo did the same thing.

It doesn’t explain how millions of people have already heard this album and yet aren’t raising the issue, except to make fun of or degrade the disabled community.”

After the release of “Heated,” some took to Twitter and pointed out how Beyoncé wasn’t facing as much backlash as Lizzo did.

Meanwhile, others excused Beyoncé’s use of the word and argued it has a different meaning in the Black community.

Beyoncé has yet to publicly address the situation.

Lizzo is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

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