Beyoncé has confirmed that she will remove an offensive term for disabled people
from the lyrics of her new album, Renaissance, after it was called “ableist” and
“offensive” by disability charities and activists.
In the song Heated, co-written with Canadian rapper Drake
derogatory term for spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy. A representative for the
musician told Insider that the lyric will be changed. “The word, not used
intentionally in a harmful way, will be replaced,” the statement said.
In June, the US musician Lizzo was also called out for using the same term in the
song Grrrls, from her new album Special. After a swift backlash, Lizzo apologised and
replaced the lyric, saying that she had never wanted to “promote derogatory
language” and adding: “As a fat Black woman in America, I have had many hurtful
words used against me so I understand the power words can have (whether
intentionally, or in my case, unintentionally.)”
In the UK, the term in question is widely considered to be offensive. In 2003, it placed
second in a BBC survey of the most offensive terms in the UK relating to anyone with
a disability. In the US, however, it still appears in more common use.
Australian writer and disability advocate Hannah Diviney was among the first to call
Lizzo out, with her tweet going viral. Writing in the Guardian on Monday, Diviney
lamented witnessing the same situation play out again so soon. “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,
” wrote Diviney. “But I guess I was wrong.”
Beyoncé’s commitment to musical and visual storytelling did not “excuse her use of
ableist language – language that gets used and ignored all too often”, wrote Diviney.
“Language you can be sure I will never ignore, no matter who it comes from or what
the circumstances are.”
The UK disability charity Sense initially tweeted of Beyoncé’s Heated that it was
“disappointing that another artist is using an offensive term in their song so soon
after it was pointed out how hurtful the word is”, and called for “more education to
improve awareness of disability”.
They later praised her for agreeing to change the lyric. “Beyoncé has a history of
championing inclusivity, and we’re happy that she’s listened to feedback and agreed
to re-record the lyric that many disabled people find offensive. We recognise that the
word was not used intentionally to cause harm but words have power and can
reinforce negative attitudes marginalized groups face.
“We want to thank Beyoncé for listening and look forward to getting on with enjoying