Editor’s note: This article mentions and discusses the use of an ableist slur.
Beyoncé will remove a derogatory term used to describe people with disabilities from a song on her new album, Renaissance, after facing backlash from the disability community.
“Heated,” the 11th track on the album, has the word “spaz” in its lyrics:
“Spazzin’ on that ass, spaz on that ass”
According to the National Center on Disability and Journalism, “spaz” or “spastic” is an offensive term used to refer to someone with cerebral palsy.
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Cerebral palsy refers to a number of neurological disorders that “permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination,” explains the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
A common type is spastic cerebral palsy, which causes stiff and exaggerated movements.
“The word, not used intentionally in a harmful way, will be replaced,” a spokeswoman for Beyoncé said in a statement to The Associated Press on Monday.
Many from the disability community were disappointed, as the same slur was used by another popular artist last month.
Lizzo’s second single “GRRRLS” off her new album, Special, also contained the derogatory term, which has since been removed.
“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,” tweeted disability advocate Hannah Diviney. “Guess I’ll just keep telling the whole industry to ‘do better’ until ableist slurs disappear from music 💔”
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 💔
— Hannah Diviney (@hannah_diviney) July 30, 2022
So so disappointed that Beyoncé has used an ableist slur in Heated
It’s the same one Lizzo used (& corrected very gracefully)… this was high profile enough that the same mistake shouldn’t have happened again
So sick of non-disabled artists not recognising harm in their words
— Ju (@juliaisobela) August 1, 2022
But many in the Black community are defending the use of the word, saying that it’s a term used in African American Vernacular English (AAVE) that isn’t referring to people with disabilities.
“Spaz is not a slur, not in the way Beyoncé and Lizzo used it,” explained one Twitter user. “It’s a slang that is referring to a type of jumpiness or general hyper activeness.”
Spaz is not a slur, not in the way Beyoncé and Lizzo used it. It’s a slang that is referring to a type of jumpiness or general hyper activeness.
— ⁂𝙴𝚁𝙸𝙲𝙺𝙰⁂ (@erickacknowles) August 1, 2022
“AAVE is a language. Just like the term black in Spanish is a slur in English. Terms and context,” another person tweeted.
The Beyoncé thing is so ridiculous. AAVE is a language. Just like the term black in Spanish, is a slur in English. Terms and context. Just like countless other words have different meanings across other languages and dialects.. REGIONS. The internet is such a goofy ass place.
— big tigga || Law Of Assumption (@Iamgoxd) August 2, 2022
Others pointed out that Black female artists are being accused of ableism, while white artists who use the same slurs are safe from criticism.
The white disabled community needs to confront its racism.
As a Black disabled woman, I see how Lizzo, Beyonce, and Black women artists are targeted and accused of ableism. The same criticism is not reserved for white artists who use ableist language. https://t.co/edhuxiLu3T
— Ola Ojewumi (@Olas_Truth) August 1, 2022
Another Twitter user disagreed saying that “it’s not ‘an attack on Black folks’ because Black disabled folks expressed discomfort too.”
Beyoncé and Lizzo made their own choice to listen to disabled folks and remove the ableist word from the song. It’s not “an attack on Black folks” because Black disabled folks expressed discomfort too. I’m not sure why people have to overexaggerate something so simple.
— jordan • they/them (@jd_occasionally) August 2, 2022
Renaissance dropped last Friday and is Beyoncé’s long-awaited seventh studio album.