Co Tyrone disability blogger welcomes Lizzo’s decision to revise new song after criticism over ‘ableist slur’
A Co Tyrone disability rights advocate has welcomed a decision by American singer and rapper Lizzo to remove an “ableist slur” from her new single following an angry backlash.
rrrls, the latest song from the popstar’s upcoming album Special, was released on Friday but was criticised by fans and disability campaigners for its use of a derogatory term for the condition spastic cerebral palsy.
The offensive word features in the opening verse of the track and provoked much anger on social media, with disability campaigners expressing their disappointment.
Dermot Devlin, a disability blogger from Omagh, addressed the Good as Hell singer directly on Twitter, saying: “Spaz or spastic are horrible words.
“The history of this term is deeply upsetting, especially when you discover it was appropriated from @scope who were then forced to change their original name as a result.
“Please remove ableist slurs from your music.”
Disability charity Scope was previously known as the National Spastics Society but changed its name in 1994.
In response to the reaction to the offensive language used, Lizzo, who is well-known for her lyrics championing inclusivity and self-love, said she was releasing a new version of the track omitting the offending word.
Writing on her social media, she said: “Let me make one thing clear: I never want to promote derogatory language.
“As a fat black woman in America, I’ve had many hurtful words used against me so I understand the power words can have (whether intentionally or in my case, unintentionally).
“I’m proud to say there’s a new version of GRRRLS with a lyric change.
“This is the result of me listening and taking action. As an influential artist I’m dedicated to being part of the change I’ve been waiting to see in the world.”
Responding to Lizzo’s decision to revise the track, Dermot said it was a “welcome” move.
And he praised the popstar for reacting so quickly to release a new version.
“I understand that the word originated in the UK and might have different connotations in the US, but it was still deeply hurtful to hear it,” Dermot said.
“I don’t get angry about things, but I was upset and made my point to her in a tweet in a calm way.
“I do believe she understands that she got it wrong with the language she used and I am pleased she acted quickly to come out and say what she did and to make the lyric change.
“She didn’t try to defend herself or make excuses. She just acted swiftly to get out a new version.”
Dermot said that while he had been disappointed by the original track, he didn’t believe Lizzo had intentionally set out to hurt or offend anyone with her choice of words. But he said artists and record company executives needed to be more knowledgeable about appropriate language use.
Last year, Australian popstar Sia apologised for casting a neurotypical actor as a nonverbal autistic girl in her film Music and for scenes depicting the use of restraints on autistic people.
The film sparked a huge backlash within the autistic community but Sia defended her decision, which angered people further.
When the apology came, it was viewed by many in the autistic community as “too little, too late.”
Dermot, who has a rare disease called MPS Morquio and has been a wheelchair user since he was five years old, said: “Lizzo’s quick reaction and admission that she’d got it wrong is in stark contrast to Sia and the way she reacted to criticism over her film about the autistic community.
“She was called out on how she had portrayed autistic people wrongly but doubled down and wouldn’t budge, which did her PR a lot of damage.
“Maybe lessons will be learned this time.”