We’ve all been witness to a fair share of scandals about words and meanings. Artists, performers, politicians, celebrities and even social media influencers have made this mistake over and over again. They say something wrong, offend a whole group of people and when they receive backlash their first instinct is to defend themselves and go on and on about how their words are being misinterpreted wrong and their intention was different. Lizzo’s song GIRRRLS could’ve gone the same route, but it didn’t.
Lizzo’s song GIRRRLs came out on Friday and while it definitely sounds like something you will listen to on repeat for weeks, but there was an issue with the lyrics. People on social media noticed that the lyric “I’m a spaz, I’m about to knock somebody out” was not ok. In fact the word “spaz” is an ableist slur derived from spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy that involves muscle stiffness.
People on TikTok and Twitter made sure to inform Lizzo about this. Some just explained the meaning of the word, others shared that this made them feel hurt and angry. There was outrage about how this song was ever allowed to be released with such a word in the lyrics, after all, even if you type it into TikTok search it says that this word is associated with hateful behavior. There were even calls to cancel Lizzo altogether.
But what Lizzo did was probably the best example of what to do when you make a mistake.
She listened to the people and how her actions hurt their feelings. She reflected on what she did wrong and released posts on her social media apologizing for her wrongdoing. And then she just fixed it. She re-released the song in a matter of days fully changing that line in the song. It’s THAT easy. Just three steps: listen, apologize, fix what you did wrong.
And when you think about how simple these three steps were, it’s kind of mindblowing that very few choose to do the same when they land in hot waters. We all hope that this can become a valuable lesson for everyone in the future. Just listen, educate yourself, apologize and fix, instead of trying to excuse unacceptable behavior.