NOTE: This story contains offensive language.
After activists online accused Beyoncé of including an “ableist slur” in a song from her latest album Renaissance, the singer announced she would remove the offensive lyric.
The problematic lyric was featured on the album’s 11th track, Heated, which twice contained the word “spaz,” an offensive term for cerebral palsy (also known as spastic diplegia).
“The word, not used intentionally in a harmful way, will be replaced,” a representative for Beyoncé, 40, told Good Morning America on Monday.
In June, pop singer Lizzo faced the same controversy and changed a lyric in her single Grrrls following a backlash from disability activists online.
Lizzo, 34, had also used the word “spaz” in her song, which was later removed.
“Let me make one thing clear: I never want to promote derogatory language,” Lizzo wrote in a statement posted to social media at the time.
“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).”
One prominent disability activist, Hannah Diviney, wrote an opinion column for Hireup about Beyoncé’s use of the offensive word.
Diviney, who has cerebral palsy, was a leading force in calling out both Lizzo and Beyoncé on social media.
“I thought we’d changed the music industry and started a global conversation about why ableist language — intentional or not — has no place in music,” Diviney wrote of Lizzo’s lyric change. “But I guess I was wrong, because now Beyoncé has gone and done exactly the same thing.”
Diviney also tweeted about the offensive Beyoncé lyric, writing that the word feels like a “slap in the face to me, the disabled community & progress we tried to make with Lizzo.”
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
Many more disability activists also took to Twitter to share in Diviney’s call for a lyric change.
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
— Ghoulia 👻 (@juliaisobela) August 1, 2022
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
Others online, however, were quick to defend Beyoncé, claiming “spaz” meant something different in the Black community. Many social media users alleged the word is equivalent to “go crazy” in African American English, or African American Vernacular English (AAVE).
Dear press and media: stop looking for quotes from white disabled advocates about Beyonce and this ableist slur controversy. Many Black disabled women understand intersectionality that they don't.
They can't see their unconscious bias, racism, or white privilege.
— Ola Ojewumi (@Olas_Truth) August 1, 2022
Beyoncé’s album Renaissance was released July 29. Spotify announced on Friday that the album became 2022’s most-streamed album in a single day by a female artist.
All hail the queen 👑🐝
— Spotify (@Spotify) July 30, 2022
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