There is so much to like about the artist and musician known as Lizzo. From the moment she set foot inside of a recording studio and got up onto the national stage, she has taken our collective culture into a new and necessary direction. Her pop-infused music often includes lyrics that are empowering to an intersectional population. She definitely comes across as a figure who is aware of how marginalization and bias can affect a person’s well-being. So when she was called out for an insensitive lyric, it was a huge shock.
The incident happened when disability rights activists pointed out that the term “spaz” in her song “Grrrls,” is a longstanding derogatory remark for people with spastic diplegia. There is absolutely no reason to believe Lizzo meant any offense by using the word. She likely had not known its historic association with the medical condition. Admittedly, I did not either and I am sure that I am not alone in my ignorance. However, it was clear from the discourse within the disabled community that it had been hurtful and needed to be addressed. Instead of a debate on semantics and artistic license, this became the perfect teachable moment, and Lizzo certainly went to the head of the class with a truly thoughtful response and action.
Lizzo was quick to take the feedback to heart. She released a new version of the song –minus the offensive lyric– and a heartfelt statement showing she has learned from this experience and is committed to working towards transformative change:
There is no rule that says artists have to be role models or make a positive change in the world. However, one of the key aspects of being a successful artist is the ability to reflect upon a work of art; consider its social and cultural connections or ramifications; and revise a work accordingly based on constructive critiques. This is similar within the educational environment, where an educator is someone who realizes it is their responsibility to actively listen to their students and use their influence to provide a flexible platform that supports students’ social, emotional and intellectual growth.
Lizzo is the epitome of a talented artist who is not afraid to admit having made a mistake and then take pragmatic strides to both learn and educate others during the process. This is why she is one of the most important entertainers and educators today.