In response to criticisms by disability groups and activists, Beyoncé removed a lyric from her new album, Renaissance, after being called “ableist” and “offensive.”
A number of fans and activists criticized the use of the word “spaz” in the song “Heated.” Spaz has historically been used in a derogatory way to describe people with disabilities, especially individuals with cerebral palsy. According to African American slang, a dialect of English used in Black communities, the word means “to go crazy” or “to fight.”
It was reported that a representative for the singer said the lyric would be changed. The statement stated, “The word, not used intentionally in a harmful way, will be replaced.”
It is not the first time that a singer has been criticized for using the word “spaz.” Lizzo re-released her song “Grrrls” with new lyrics after she received complaints for using the same word. Beyoncé’s knowledge of Lizzo’s backlash two months earlier has been put under question.
In an opinion piece in The Guardian, Hannah Diviney, a disability advocate, wrote that Beyoncé’s cultural significance did not excuse her use of ableist language. She wrote, “I am so tired. Disabled people deserve better. I do not want to have this conversation again.”
According to Warren Kirwan, media manager at the UK charity Scope, removing the word is important because it encourages negative attitudes toward people with disabilities.
In May and June, Scope and Opinium Research surveyed 4,015 adults with disabilities in England and Wales. According to their findings, nine out of ten respondents who reported experiencing negative attitudes and behaviors said they were personally affected.
Kirwan said, “It is appalling that one of the world’s biggest stars has chosen to include this deeply offensive term. Just weeks ago, Lizzo received a huge backlash from fans who felt hurt and let down after she used the same abhorrent language.”
She added, “Thankfully, she did the right thing and rerecorded the song. It is hard to believe that could have gone unnoticed by Beyoncé’s team.”
Kirwan also mentioned, “Words matter because they reinforce the negative attitudes disabled people face every day and which impact on every aspect of disabled people’s lives.” Continuing, “Beyoncé has long been a champion of inclusivity and equality, so we had urged her to remove this offensive lyric.”