“Your new song makes me quite angry [and] sad,” Diviney, who has cerebral palsy, said in a message to Lizzo on Saturday. “‘Spaz’ doesn’t mean freaked out or crazy. It’s an ableist insult. It’s 2022. Do better.
In a statement posted on all of her social media platforms, Lizzo apologized and announced that she had changed the lyrics.
“I’m proud to say there’s a new version of GRRRLS with a lyric change,” she wrote. “It’s the result of my listening and my doing. As an influential artist, I’m dedicated to being part of the change I’ve been waiting to see in the world.
The new version replaces the lyrics with “hold me back” and is available to stream on Spotify, YouTube and other music apps.
Representatives for Lizzo did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment Monday evening.
Many fans responding to the change said the controversy surrounding the lyrics educated them on the harmfulness of the word. In a message to the Post, Diviney, who lives in Australia, said the global conversation was a positive outcome of a situation she initially found unnerving and disappointing.
“I think ableism is unfortunately so entrenched in our society that people don’t always realize when it’s being used, which speaks to the lack of representation and visibility of people with disabilities around the world,” she said. . “If it got any better, conversations like this might not need to happen.”
Several activists noted that the word has been normalized, which is hurtful to those whose diagnoses involve spasms. Imani Barbarin, a well-followed disability rights advocate on social media, posted on TikTok that her spasms are so severe that she sometimes has nausea and vomiting.
“I’m in so much pain that I can’t sleep if I’m in a really bad spasm,” she said. “I’ve observed on several occasions – without my will or my brain noticing – my leg twists out of its grip and stays there for hours due to a spasm.”
Other people with disabilities have warned against Lizzo’s attempts to “cancel”. Shelby Lynch, an influencer with spinal muscular atrophy, said she rather wants it to be an educational moment.
“I’ve seen a few comments on the internet talking about ‘Cancel Lizzo’ and that’s not what we want – we want to educate her and get the word changed,” Lynch tweeted Sunday.
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In her statement, Lizzo said she was unaware the word was considered harmful.
“Let me make one thing clear: I never want to promote derogatory language,” she continued. “As a fat black woman in America, I’ve had a lot of hurtful words used against me, so I understand the power words can have (whether intentionally or in my case, unintentionally).”
Lizzo’s decision to re-release the song has been celebrated online. The fix was particularly moving for Diviney, who said his intention all along was to educate the artist.
“Seeing her respond to this by actively listening instead of defending or dubbing is a mark of her authenticity as an ally and the importance of the space she occupies in the music industry,” said Diviney.
“We still have a long way to go to make things better for people with disabilities everywhere, but it honestly gives me hope that big change is within reach,” she added.