Calling out Lizzo's slur in 'Grrrls' was not 'cancel culture'
Many tried to make reactions to Lizzo’s ableist slur something it wasn’t. Most disabled people didn't want to "cancel" the artist. We just wanted to be heard.
I can palpably remember every time I was called a "spaz." Sometimes it was in gym class, with classmates screaming in my face because I missed catching the ball for the fifth time because my brain wouldn’t let me coordinate my hands. Other times, it would be uttered and whispered behind my back, with a raised eyebrow or two, when I struggled to cut my food during Home Ec lessons or found myself tripping over nothing for the third time that day.
Worst of all was when I was in my own world, forgetting for a moment that I stood out from everyone else and feeling content with my own company at recess, only for pinch-faced popular kids to hiss it as they walked past me, low enough to avoid the teacher hearing them. Being an autistic and dyspraxic (a neurological condition that affects your coordination and balance) person raised in the U.K., that word was a formative part of my vocabulary before I was even old enough to understand what neurodiversity or ableism was.
Calling something or someone out is very distinct from “canceling” them.
This is why it hurt me to see the word used in Lizzo’s song, "Grrrls." For me, it encapsulates all the “otherness” that was put on me as a child, and like the "r" slur, the word is rooted in ableism. The epithet was historically used to describe people with spastic paralysis — a neurological condition affecting the nervous system — but the term soon became derogatory shorthand to describe anyone with a lack of control over their coordination or motor skills: which, of course, means these words end up being weaponized against disabled or neurodivergent people.
Calling out the use of this word in the song is important because if the word is used in a song by a widely popular artist, there’s a chance that it can become normalized again. It could lead to many other disabled people facing the same ableism I did. It also trivializes the word and its impact.