Explore Issue 01 of LOOP Magazine

Featuring Sam Tompkins and Victor Ray as our cover stars, as well as internal spreads from Girli, Jords, Mysie, Finn Askew, Kara Marni and Master Peace

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Lizzo Made A Mistake And Took Accountability; Why Were We So Quick To ‘Cancel’?

“Do you see this shit? Imma’ spaz” is the offending word featured on the track. After much chatter online, I saw that ‘spaz’ is a (problematic) colloquial term in AAVE. In this context, Lizzo used the term to mean to’ wild out’ or ‘react enthusiastically.’

However, slang aside, a dark and horrific connotation is attached to the word spaz. Firstly, ‘Spaz’ is short for the word ‘Spastic.’ Medically, this is a condition in which ‘there is an abnormal increase in muscle tone or stiffness of muscle’,  meaning that it primarily affects the physical mobility of the individual (full Definition here).

Due to it being a neurological issue, individuals with this condition do not have much control over their bodily movements. Specifically, Spastic diplegia is a form of cerebral palsy that affects the motor control movements of the legs.

Using the term ‘spaz’ casually is profoundly harmful and hurtful as it undermines and trivialises the severity of this neurological condition and the social challenges the sufferers face. After scouring online, I read accounts of people with Cerebral Palsy who recounted the times that the word was used against them in a taunting and derogatory manner.

‘Spaz’ is a violent slur that has been used to degrade and bully this community of people for simply existing. Although I vehemently agree that Lizzo should not have used that crude word, I was dismayed at the vitriol she received online. I genuinely believe she did not know the severity and meaning of the term due to its casual use in the AAVE community.

Before she had the opportunity to apologise and take accountability (which she did), she was met with an onslaught of condemnation, some of which was not justified. I saw numerous anti-black and fat-phobic attacks directed towards the singer; there was a shared sentiment amongst non-black individuals that she used the term knowingly to cause malicious intent and harm to this specific, marginalised group of people. I want to know why grace was not extended to her? Why did people not give her the benefit of the doubt and understand that although horrific, it was simply a case of ignorance and not knowing?

The sad thing I noted was that the treatment and backlash she received directly resulted from misogynoir. Systemically, there is an inherent contempt, deep-rooted dislike and prejudice against black women, and the hatred manifests in scenarios such as this. Why did Lizzo’s musical collaborators not catch any heat? Benny Blanco, Blake Slatkin, Ilya, Max Martin and Pop Wansel were all involved in creating the track ‘Grrrls’; why was the outrage also not directed at them? I believe Lizzo got the disproportionate brunt of the backlash as black women are simply not allowed to be humans or make mistakes.

As the faithful ally she is, Lizzo apologised via a statement on her personal Twitter account, taking responsibility and accountability for her hurtful mistake. The statement reads:

The most poignant part of the statement was when she said, “as a fat black woman in America, I’ve had many hurtful words used against me, so I (understand) the power words can have.” As a plus-size black woman living in America, Lizzo truly does understand how it feels to be entrenched in the marginalised sectors of society. This allows her to empathise with other marginalised members and be a true ally. Her positioning as a black woman has allowed her to extend empathy and compassion to those she has hurt. She made no excuses. She took accountability and removed the slur in her new song version. The new lyrics read as ‘Do you see this shit? Hold me back’. She omitted the slur while keeping the line’s original sentiment intact. She is still going to ‘wild out’ but in an ethical and non-ableist manner as she truly is an ally.

Let’s give black women more grace before jumping down their throats. Let’s extend the same courtesy to them then we do the white celebs.

Words by Osob Hersi

Posted On 4 October, 2022