Spaz on That Ass
As today is yet another day that ends in ‘y,’ I’ve discovered a new target of call-out culture group bullying. This time, it relates to a source I couldn’t have predicted.
Said to have some of the “most dedicated superfans,” Beyoncé Knowles-Carter isn’t above criticism. Are any of us?
Apparently, Beyoncé used the word “spaz” on her recent song “Heated,’ singing, ‘Spazzin’ on that ass, spaz on that ass.” Per one Australian critic, “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.”
First, who is the “we” described by the critic?
Second, who asked them to change anything?
Third, might there be others opposed to said changes?
Fourth, were opposing views honored during the “global conversation”?
Fifth, is “harmful ableist language” any better or worse than infringing upon the enumerated right to free speech and rigidly demanding that others conform to the critic’s language rules?
Sixth, “intentional or not”? How does this standard hold space for accidents, as it appears to set an un-navigable minefield which cannot be maneuvered without offended a person’s extreme beliefs or hyper-sensibilities?
Last, music is an art form. Isn’t one of the functions of art to offend the consumer and cause one to think critically?
Using my approach to Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I assist clients by helping to dispute irrational beliefs, such as the rigid demand for others to stop using certain words and phrases. This also applies to extreme declarations such as one stating, “Language you can be sure I will never ignore, no matter who it comes from or what the circumstances are.”
While my intention is to examine statements and not attack individuals herein, I suspect one may ask, “Deric, why are you critiquing the words of the Australian critic who self-identifies as a disability advocate?” What does the current post even have to do with REBT?
I, too, have been educated and trained in the ways of activism. No, I’m not joking. When attending my second graduate program, I was told quite enthusiastically by one tenured professor, “We’re teaching you to become activists first, social workers second,” or words to that effect.
I learned how to employ use of a critical theory lens so that I could identify oppression and power imbalances in every situation, behave as an ally, and cry out for social justice—much like the aforementioned critic of Beyoncé’s has. I’ve long since rejected and abandoned such conditioning.
Nonetheless, I understand how advocates, allies, activists, etc. may use a “hierarchy of oppression” by way of a progressive stack—giving preferential treatment to “groups that are considered the most marginalized.”
This is how a disabled non-black woman can demand of Beyoncé, an able-bodied black woman, to “do better” by not using the term “spaz”—something the critic recently told another black woman, Lizzo.
In a Tweet, the critic stated, “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.”
For those unfamiliar with the insincere, self-righteous, performative, and bully-driven phrase “do better,” I admire your lack of knowledge. How underprivileged or marginalized is a person when she can demand that entertainers change their behavior—and the entertainers acquiesce?
For the sake of the current blog entry, let’s suppose I take part in the Oppression Olympics, per my grad school training. Using a critical theory lens to search for content I find offensive, I discover a topic relating to crayons.
I served in the United States Marine Corps (USMC) for a period of time. Due to inter-service rivalry, there’s a derogatory joke referencing the supposed low intelligence of Marines which is often used by airmen, sailors, and soldiers. (I’d include coasties, but let’s not be silly.)
The joke states that Marines eat crayons. As one person clarifies, “It is not politically correct these days but autistic and retarded kids eat crayons. Therefore Marines are autistic retarded [k]ids.”
A version of this gag also results when someone says, “I have neither the time nor the crayons to explain this to you.” As one person expands, “It’s basically saying you’re stupid and I don’t have crayons to draw out what I’m trying to say to your infantile mind. And even if I had the crayons I don’t have the time to draw it out.”
Suppose I declared, “No one should refer to Marines as retarded, particularly due to the fact that the politically correct term is intellectual disability, and mainly because it’s an ableist slur!” I could choose to disturb myself, becoming angry when others violate my should, must, or ought statements.
Is this how I choose to live my life? Who made me the arbiter of free speech? Does language policing serve my goals for self-change, knowing I have no control over others?
I could declare myself a victim, announcing to others that I’m a disabled USMC veteran with a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder, and demanding that others must not offend my precious sensibilities.
And when people continue to live as they choose, calling me a “retarded” Marine, will I be able tolerate frustration with others who do not obey my demands? Considering the entirety of my life thus far, have people generally adhered to my rigid prescriptions of the world?
These are the matters I address when working with clients who perpetually disturb themselves with irrational beliefs. It is irrational for me to insist that others not call me a “crayon-eater,” because I have no right to not be offended—even as a disabled person.
Likewise, as a disabled person, it is irrational to require others not to use the term “spaz,” because there is no right to not be offended. We may not like what others say, we may prefer them not to say certain things, and we may hope others won’t offend us, though we have no right to demand such a thing.
We can spaz on someone’s ass if we’re truly dedicated to allowing undisputed irrational beliefs control over our emotions, bodily sensations, thoughts, and behavior. Or, we can change our lives by getting better—rather than demanding that others “be better.”
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how irrational beliefs impact your life in an unhelpful way, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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