Following the much-hyped release of Beyoncé’s new album Renaissance, the artist faced backlash over the use of the word “spaz,” which has been referred to an an ableist slur, on “Heated.” Now, Beyoncé has listened and is set to alter the song.
In a statement shared with Variety today (August 1), Beyoncé’s team said, “The word, not used intentionally in a harmful way, will be replaced.”
While much of the immediate reaction to the album was focused on the high quality of the music, there were those who wondered why Beyoncé chose to include the word in “Heated,” especially since Lizzo used the term in her track “Grrrls” in June and promptly changed the song after becoming aware of the word’s controversial nature.
Notably, Hannah Diviney, the writer and disability advocate who brought much attention to the word after Lizzo used it, published an opinion piece in The Guardian today in which she notes that Beyoncé’s artistry and focus on Black issues “doesn’t excuse her use of ableist language – language that gets used and ignored all too often.” She continued, “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.”
The word is derived from “spastic” and “spasticity,” a condition marked by involuntary muscle movements, experienced by people with nervous system issues like stroke, spinal cord injury, brain injury, or multiple sclerosis. According to Benjamin Zimmer, editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press, in the 1960s, usage of the word in the US shifted “from its original sense of ‘spastic or physically uncoordinated person’ to something more like ‘nerdy, weird, or uncool person.'”