Lizzo removes ‘harmful’ ableist slur from new song Grrrls after criticism

Pop star says she ‘never want[ed] to promote derogatory language’ and re-releases song, removing offensive term for spastic diplegia

Lizzo has removed an offensive term for disabled people from her latest song after days of public criticism, saying she “never want[ed] to promote derogatory language”.

Grrrls, the latest track from the musician’s upcoming album Special, was released on Friday. In the opening verse, the pop star – who has become well-known for her lyrics championing acceptance and self-love – used a derogatory term for spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy.

The song was almost immediately criticised by fans and disability advocates, with tweets and TikToks explaining the history and offensive nature of the term being shared and liked hundreds of thousands of times.

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

I’m disappointed in @lizzo for using the word “sp@z” in her new song “Grrrls”. There’s no excuse for using an ableist insult in a song in 2022. As someone who champions women, plus size people and others whom society treats poorly, Lizzo preaches inclusivity and should do better.

— Callum Stephen (He/Him) (@AutisticCallum_) June 11, 2022

Hey @lizzo please remove the word "spaz" from your new song because it's a slur and really offensive to the disabled community

From a disappointed fan 😔💔

— Shelby 🖤 (@Shelbykinsxo) June 10, 2022

Lizzo released a written public apology on Monday.

“It has been brought to my attention that there is a harmful word in my new song Grrrls. Let me make one thing clear: I never want to promote derogatory language,” she wrote. “As a fat black woman in America, I have had many hurtful words used against me so I understand the power words can have (whether intentionally, or in my case, unintentionally.)”

She said she was proud to release a new version of the song with a changed lyric.

“This is the result of me listening and taking action,” she wrote. “As an influential artist I’m dedicated to being part of the change I’ve been waiting to see in the world.”

As the song had yet to be released as a physical purchase, the previous version of Grrrls has been replaced on streaming services and digital stores with the new lyric “hold me back”.

Special is set to be released in July.


Sian Cain

The GuardianTramp

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