Lizzo Criticized for Using Ableist Slur in New Song "Grrrls"

Fans and disability advocates are asking the singer to re-record the single without the offensive lyric

Photo: Jora Frantzis

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Jun 13, 2022

Lizzo is being criticized by fans and disability advocates alike for the inclusion of an ableist slur in her new song "Grrrls."

Released last Friday (June 10) as the latest preview from her forthcoming sophomore album Special, the song's first verse opens with: "Hold my bag, bitch / Hold my bag / Do you see this shit? / Imma sp*z."

The term is derived from spastic diplegia, a.k.a. cerebral palsy — a group of conditions that affect balance, movement and muscle tone. While "spastic" and the slang short-form have seen some colloquial use synonymous with "freak out" (or "freak" as a noun), it is a medical designation referring to muscle spasms, which can be incredibly debilitating.

"A lot of people have watered down the word 'sp*z,'" disability rights activist Imani Barbarin shared on Twitter, "but as someone who was diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy, let me tell you: sometimes I'll be doing nothing and will spasm so badly that am unable to breathe from the pain and writhe trying ti [sic] get it to stop."

Many are calling for Lizzo to not only apologize for using the ableist term, but to take down the single and re-record it without the offensive lyric — especially since the pop star has been known to preach inclusivity.
"I've seen ['Grrrls'] all over TikTok," Abbie Hills, who also has cerebral palsy, told BBC. "I've seen kids dancing to it, which for me is the biggest problem because [Lizzo's] got this status with teenagers who don't know the word, and don't know the associations it has. So when they hear it on TikTok, they're going to dance around, screaming at the top of their lungs and that is a problem because they are the next generation."

Model Shelby Lynch, who has spinal muscular atrophy, added on Twitter: "I've seen a few comments across the internet talking about 'cancelling Lizzo,' and that's not what we want. We want to educate her and have the word changed."

It's not an impossible ask: radio edits to scrub swear words — or verses from problematic rappers — happen all the time. (Besides, it doesn't even really rhyme with "bag," anyway.)

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