What Hannah Diviney Wants People To Takeaway From Lizzo And Beyoncé’s Lyric Changes
When Hannah Diviney first listened to Lizzo’s hit song ‘Grrrls’ she wanted to like it, but she couldn’t get past a certain lyric.
“I was quite confused at first because that didn’t track with what I know Lizzo to be about. It didn’t really fit with her like ethos of acceptance and intersectional, like body positivity and all of that. I thought that was a bit strange,” Hannah told Junkee.
Hey @lizzo my disability Cerebral Palsy is literally classified as Spastic Diplegia (where spasticity refers to unending painful tightness in my legs) your new song makes me pretty angry + sad. ‘Spaz’ doesn’t mean freaked out or crazy. It’s an ableist slur. It’s 2022. Do better.
— Hannah Diviney (@hannah_diviney) June 12, 2022
This all changed, quite literally, when Hannah’s direct tweet to Lizzo about the ableist lyric resulted in Lizzo changing the line.
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Hannah, who is a writer, a disability advocate, and the editor-in-chief of Missing Perspectives — an online publication dedicated to platforming marginalised voices — is a pretty regular tweeter. In fact, she’s tweeted thousands of times, but never has she ever had a tweet go as viral as her Lizzo tweet did. “My phone kind of immediately started melting,” she said.
Who could’ve guessed that the same thing would happen again with Beyoncé.
“And then I kind of took a deep breath and said to my parents, well, I guess I have to call her out. But calling out Beyonce is another level again. She’s one of the most powerful figures in pop culture that we’ve ever had…. basically every time she breathes the world writes a think-piece about it.”
Calling Out Ableism In Pop Music
Following in Lizzo’s footsteps, Beyoncé’s team have released a statement that the singer will re-release her song ‘Heated’ co-written with Drake, with a new lyric.
“She had used the word ‘spaz’, which is obviously short for spastic. For me as a person with cerebral palsy, the full name of my specific type of cerebral palsy is spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, where spastic instead refers to spasticity or like this constant and unending sort of tightness that is mainly in my legs but is pretty much throughout my body,” Hannah explained.
Ableism is a form of discrimination or social prejudice against people with disabilities, It’s seen through behaviours, attitudes, stereotypes, and the language we choose to use. In Australia, one in six people aged 15 to 64 with disabilities experienced disability discrimination in 2021. And four in nine people with disability in the same age bracket avoided situations because of their disability.
“Even though this feels like a little thing, I think it’s putting disability in the spotlight. It’s giving disabled activists a platform to speak and also like the opportunity to be googled and searched on Twitter and Instagram and followed.
I think if we start with the small stuff that gives us a way into the bigger, broader, structural conversations around disability issues.
In terms of the scale of challenges that disabled people have to face, Hannah said that going in and changing a lyric was a pretty easy win.
She reckons that if that gets people more interested in disabled issues, then that’s a positive. “If it it makes people like Lizzo and Beyonce potentially more receptive to being allies in the bigger structural issues, particularly in the US which has barriers to access to healthcare that we don’t…. that’s all a positive as far as I’m concerned.”
Being An Effective Ally To The Disabled Community
Activist Vilissa Thompson voiced her concern about the fact that when white musicians use ableist language in their songs, they may receive some backlash but not the same visceral reaction that Black people do.
Hannah recognised that even though she is in a wheelchair there are intense privileges that she has based on the colour of her skin, the way she identifies, her relationship to gender, and her sexuality.
“It would be remiss of me not to like to acknowledge that while I am marginalised I still have extreme privilege and more privilege than people who perhaps sit at the intersection of multiple marginalised identities.”