Beyonce replaces lyric on ‘Renaissance’ after drawing scrutiny
Representatives confirmed to CNN the lyric was not intended to be harmful.
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Representatives for Beyonce confirmed this week to CNN that the artist would remove the ableist slur ‘spaz’ from the album entirely and replace it. It is unclear what term Beyonce’s team will use in its place.
The statement comes a few days after the singer released her seventh studio album, Renaissance, a long-winded dance record reminiscent of pre-pandemic clubbing.
Listeners hear the word on the eleventh track, “Heated.” The disability community took to Twitter, denouncing the use of the slur, drawing backlash following the release.
One user said the word's usage felt like a “slap in the face” to the disabled community.
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
However, Beyonce isn’t the first singer to be called out specifically for including the slur in a song lyric.
In June, pop singer Lizzo faced similar backlash after incorporating the lyric back in June after the release of her single, “GRRRLS.” Many notable social media advocates, such as Imani Barbarin, with over 400,000 followers, criticized its use.
Lizzo fans were particularly disappointed, given the performer’s advocacy in the body positivity movement. She changed the lyrics and addressed the backlash.
Barbarin is a staunch disability advocate who is also herself disabled.
A lot of people have watered down the word “spaz” 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 get it to stop.— Imani Barbarin, MAGC | Crutches&Spice ♿️ (@Imani_Barbarin) June 12, 2022
‘Spaz’ is a term originating from ‘spastic,’ an insult often used to describe a person who is disabled and functions with poor mobility.
Beyonce’s announcement also drew objection, as Twitter users pointed out that the word is part of African-American Vernacular English, AAVE for short, and is used commonly in the Black community.
However, many signaled that the standard application of the word in colloquial language is not mutually exclusive with its ableist roots.
I need y’all to stop acting like AAVE terms can’t be ableist…y’all know exactly what we used the word “spaz” for (“go stupid” “go crazy”) and by that definition it definitely is.— m a y a (@KioshiWarrior) August 1, 2022
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘spaz’ as relating to, characterized by, or affected with or as if with a spasm.
The National Center on Disability and Journalism describes it as derogatory.
“It is acceptable to refer to someone as ‘having spastic cerebral palsy,’ but it is derogatory to refer to someone as ‘spastic” or ‘a spaz.’ When describing specific symptoms, it is always best to ask the person what terms they prefer,” the center wrote.
Representatives for Beyonce said that “the word, not used intentionally in a harmful way, will be replaced."