Tiny List of African-American Women with Disabilities

It’s Black History Month. I had planned to do a series of profiles of African-American women with disabilities but so far, I’ve only been able to get one (Bonnie St. John) done. Rather than let the month of February slip away without recognizing the contributions of black women who you may or may not know have lived with disabilities, I thought I’d put together a tiny, not-at-all comprehensive list of some names you should know.

  • Halle Berry (actress) – lost 80% of hearing in one ear due to domestic violence
  • Foxy Brown (rapper) – experienced deafness in 2005, regained hearing after surgery
  • Connie Brisco (author) – deaf
  • Audre Lorde (author) – visually impaired, breast cancer
  • Wilma Rudolph (athlete) – had polio and wore leg braces as a child
  • Ella Fitzgerald (singer) – became blind due to diabetes in her later years
  • Harriet Tubman (Underground Railroad conductor) – epilepsy
  • Whoopi Goldberg (actress, comedian) – dyslexia
  • Bonnie St. John (Paralympic skier) – amputee
  • Claudia Gordon (First Deaf lawyer) – deaf
  • Barbara Jordan (Congresswoman from Texas) – multiple sclerosis

What other African-American women should be added to this list? Leave a note in the comments!

10 Things I Like About Being Single

It’s Valentine’s Day. I know Hallmark and Kay’s Jewelry and proflower.com want me to feel terrible about myself because I’m single, but I don’t. Here are ten things I like about being single:

  1. I get the whole bed to myself, every night.
  2. I alone am in charge of the budget and no one complains if I spend too much on books. (Looking at you, BIL.)
  3. I can read in bed as late as I want.
  4. I don’t have to deal with in-laws.
  5. I don’t have to consult with anyone when buying something. I always get to buy what I like. No compromises.
  6. My dog loves me best.
  7. I wear clothes to look good for myself, not anyone else.
  8. I have a better self-esteem as I don’t live for some guy’s opinion or attention.
  9. I have tons more space.
  10. The only dirty laundry on my floor is my own. I’m totally kidding. There’s not dirty laundry on my floor. (Yes, there is.)

Simon Howl, my springer spaniel
Simon is my Valentine

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I Got Called Out for Racism on Twitter. I Deserved It.

I broke the number one rule of Twitter and joined someone else’s conversation without clearly thinking about what I was going to say. It started out fairly well.

@deluxvivens: lots of white women who found out online that lots of black women hate having their hair touched, poked and prodded, even if its b/c the +

@DanineSpencer: @deluxvivens I’d love to know how those same white women would like it if black women (or anyone else) touched their hair w/o permission

The replies started coming in:

@deluxvivens: good question. @DanineSpencer

@Layogenic: @deluxvivens @DanineSpencer Ofc having a bw touch a ww hair is not equivalent. It’s like switching to have women catcall men. Diff dynamic.

@DanineSpencer: @Layogenic @deluxvivens great point abt imbalance of power. But as a ww, I might get the point if strangers started coming up & touching me

@deluxvivens: you’d get to call the police first. @DanineSpencer @Layogenic

But then, I couldn’t leave well enough alone….

@DanineSpencer: @deluxvivens I do tell black women w/ gorgeous curly hair I like it. Stereotypical white lady, right? Every1 likes compliments. Offensive?

And I got what I deserved:
@deluxvivens: are you asking me or telling me? @DanineSpencer

@colorlessblue: @DanineSpencer @deluxvivens “everyone likes compliments” is exactly what men tell women when we complain of harassment.

I didn’t see @deluxevivens’ tweet about “asking or telling” until an hour later or so but when @colorlessblue called my so-called “compliment” harassment, I immediately understood. It’s the same as street or sexual harassment. As a white woman, I don’t have a right to comment or touch on black women’s hair or bodies. Period. End of sentence, paragraph and conversation. There is too much of a history of white people thinking they own black bodies in this country (and others).

I wrote back:

@DanineSpencer: @colorlessblue @deluxvivens thank you. I was honestly asking & won’t do it anymore. I’m sorry.

When I saw @deluxevivens’ tweet on asking or telling later, I felt horrible. Without meaning to, I had, in fact, tell her that everyone likes compliments, that I did indeed have the right to tell someone I liked their hair. It was a small nuance of language (is that a phrase?) but @deluxevivens caught it and called me on it. Assuming that I have the right to tell someone what I think of their body is a sign of privilege. When I am a white person and the person I think should be grateful to receive my compliment is black, that is white privilege.

I don’t have any excuses. @deluxevivens, I am sorry. I can’t say it won’t happen again but I can say that I will work on getting my white privilege in check.

I don’t get to decide what’s offensive to someone else. If what I think is a compliment feels like harassment to someone else, I need to respect that lived experience. I need to understand that it makes them uncomfortable and threatens their safety,

I’m not looking for a cookie here. I’m sharing this experience with all the talk of “toxic feminism on Twitter”, I thought we handled talking about race and black hair fairly well. I was extremely upset about the conversation and couldn’t stop thinking about it for hours, but that was because I was disturbed by my own behavior, not anyone else’s.

Want to learn more about white privilege?

It Doesn’t Matter if You Like Woody Nelson…

In yesterday’s post, I wrote:

Believing Dylan Farrow does not mean you can’t still enjoy Woody Allen’s movies. Believing Dylan Farrow does not mean you are a bad person because you have been entertained by Woody Allen’s art.

I was trying to explain my theory that people don’t want to believe Woody Allen is guilty because that ruins their memories of happy times past. Take your personal feelings about Allen and his movies out of the picture. Judge the man on his personal life and not on his art.

Then I read this today on Feministing:

I’m glad we’ve all agreed to stop watching Woody Allen movies, to delete R. Kelly’s songs from our music libraries. … Taking a stand against awful celebrities is important: it sends a clear message to our communities that we won’t tolerate violence.

And I felt like shit.

We each have to make our own decisions as to what we watch or listen to. (For the record, I’ve never listened to R. Kelly except on the radio and the only Woody Allen film I’ve seen was Vicky Cristina Barcelona. I didn’t understand it.)

But do not dismiss Dylan Farrow and her trauma just because you liked Annie Hall. Do. Not.

Black Women’s Disability History: Bonnie St. John

Bonnie St. John is the first African-American to win an Olympic or Paralympic Games in skiing. She grew up in San Diego and had her right leg amputated at five years old. St. John learned to ski at fifteen and four years later, St. John competed in the 1984 Paralympics in Innsbruck, Austria. She was the first African-American, male or female, to win a medal in a skiing event at any Olympic or Paralympic Games. She won two Bronze medals, one each in Slalom and Grand Slalom, and a Silver Medal for overall performance.

St. John has excelled off the slopes, too. After graduating Magna Cum Laude from Harvard, she received a Rhodes scholarship and got her graduate degree in Economics from Oxford. In the 1990s, President Clinton appointed her to the White House National Economic Council.

After working as a successful entrepreneur, Bonnie St. John is now a highly sought-after leadership consultant and motivational speaker. She serves as a coach for skiers with disabilities at the Adaptive Ski Foundation in Windham, New York. In addition, St. John is an author of six books, including the best-seller, How Great Women Lead. (Daughter Darcy Deane is the book’s co-author.)

St. John was recognized for her achievements during Black History Month in 2007 at the White House and was quoted on millions of Starbucks cups:

“I was ahead in the slalom. But in the second run, everyone fell on a dangerous spot. I was beaten by a woman who got up faster than I did. I learned that people fall down, winners get up, and gold medal winners just get up faster.”

Video Profile of Bonnie St. John

Not surprisingly, Bonnie St. John has been called “inspiring”. While the “I” word makes me cringe, I will say she is an incredible role model for women and girls in business, sports and politics.


You Don’t Have to Hate Woody Allen to Believe Dylan Farrow.

I think I understand why many people don’t want to believe Dylan Farrow. It is easier to think she is lying rather than Woody Allen, who we have known and trusted to entertain us all of our lives. Believing that a man who is capable of producing great movies is not incompatible with believing he could molest his little girl.

Believing Dylan Farrow does not mean you can’t still enjoy Woody Allen’s movies. Believing Dylan Farrow does not mean you are a bad person because you have been entertained by Woody Allen’s art. Believing Dylan Farrow does not negate the positive experiences you had watching Annie Hall or Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

Here’s the thing: Woody Allen the artist is different than Woody Allen the person. The artist may be brilliant in his professional life but, but like all of us, capable of causing much good and much harm in his personal life. Woody Allen the person – the father – is capable of molesting Dylan Farrow.

We should believe Dylan Farrow.

January reflections on #365feministselfie

I’ve been an on-again, off-again blogger for several years now but have never been consistent about blogging. I’ve also never been the type of person to succeed at “post every day for a month” challenges which is why I’m kind of excited to have posted a new #365feministselfie to Instagram every day in January (and February, too!)

We all need positive reinforcement in order to keep up with good habits. In my case, I need awards. Without further ado, I present to myself:

Best Selfie of January:

Image of me standing in front of bathroom mirror photographing myself with pink iphone. Wearing a blue t-shirt that says ‘Poehler Fey 2016′

It was the day of Tiny Fey and Amy Poehler hosted the Golden Globes so I wore my “Poehler Fey 2016″ shirt. I felt strong and confident. I couldn’t wait to show the internetz my awesome t-shirt.

Best Selfie with a Dog

Image of Danine (selfie) with her dog

There were days when I just didn’t know what to do for an interesting picture so I dragged my dog Simon into the frame. I like this one because he is looking at me semi-adoringly. Actually, he’s probably just smelling my breath from lunch.

Best Selfie with a Prop

Image of Danine (selfie) smiling and holding a can of Diet Coke

“Hi, my name is Danine and I’m a Diet Coke addict.” I fully admit I’m addicted to Diet Coke. I recently forced myself to cut back to drinking it only on Sundays and special occasions (how I wish writing a blog post on a Saturday afternoon was a “special occasion”!) I was really happy to be drinking this Diet Coke last Sunday.

Best Selfie in Black and White

Black and white image of Danine (me) smiling

With only two pics in grayscale, there really wasn’t much competition for this award. Still, the January 14 image wins. I’m smiling and I look like I feel pretty good.

Best Comparison Composite Selfie

Photo collage of Danine:

The main reason I chose to do this project was because I have had a staph infection in my face for several years and always felt I had to hide it. The infection landed me in the hospital just before Christmas and I no longer felt I had to hide. I could tell my friends and family that I had this horrible thing on my face and admit how awful it was. Now, finally, I was (and am) on the road to recovery. I was alway intrigued by the idea of documenting my recovery. I looked and felt absolutely horrific on January 1, 2014, the photo on the left above. I have steadily been getting better, as evidence by today’s photo, on the right above.

Check out the rest of my January photos on Instagram.

January, I’m done with you. February, let’s get started!!

The Backstory on the Bandages

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll notice I’ve been posting a lot of pictures of myself wrapped up in bandages. I know I look goofy, but there’s a good reason for the blindingly-white head-wrap: I am recovering from a massive staph infection in my face.

It’s a long story but I got a staph infection a few years ago. I’m not exactly sure how or where but I started getting really deep, itchy acne at least as far aback as 2010.

Danine Spencer - small wound on chin

See that spot on my chin? I covered it with makeup pretty well but that was a deep hole at one point.

By 2011, the infection was on my right cheek, where it settled in, dug seemingly-bottomless roots and hasn’t left.


In the summer of 2012, the staph had burrowed into my right breast, creating a nearly two-inch deep crater that had to be bopped for breast cancer. No, I’m not going to show you a photo of that. I do have a nice scar to remind me of the experience.

The biopsy was negative for cancer but did test positive for staph. The surgeon and I discussed whether I wanted to go on antibiotics at that time. She didn’t seem overly concerned that something was wrong with my body, even though I had a gaping hole in my chest. We talked about the idea that we (humans) normally do have staph present in our bodies without it being harmful. I decided to be brave and see if the wound got better without antibiotics.

I was referred to wound care and the wound on my breast did indeed close and heal. My cheek wound, not so much. They tried different dressing (DuoDerm, PolyMem, mesh, AquaCel, etc) and it got smaller. By September 2012, the cheek wound was about the size of a nickel. For some reason that I will never understand, the wound care clinic decided to discharge me.

I left the clinic fighting back angry tears. I knew the wound was not healed and I had no idea how it would it would get better now without medical attention. At the time, I lived in a small town. My primary care provider had referred me to the wound care clinic. I assumed the surgeon who worked with wound care agreed with the discharge. I didn’t feel like I had any other options except to go home and treat the wound myself.

I called my pharmacy and ordered DuoDerm, the dressing I had been using on my cheek. I kept putting the heavy rubber-like film on my cheek for the next several month. Unfortunately, the wound got worse instead of better. By February, it turned into an abscess that burst open, breaking through my earlobe.

Danine, sitting at my kitchen table, with head wrapped in white bandages - February 2013 class=

Yes, at that point, I did go back to the doctor. They tested the abscess and found it was infected. Actually, I tested positive for MRSA, but no one told me that. I took antibiotics for seven days and was considered cured. I was sent back to wound care.

The wound care clinic made me come in every two to three days to have my bandages changed. They did not trust me to change them myself. I don’t know why. For seven weeks, from the time the abscess broke open until I moved back to my hometown, I had to trek to the clinic at least twice a week to get the dressing changed.

In April 2013, I moved back to my hometown, a medium-sized city with multiple large clinics. Within the first week of being back, I found a great specialty wound clinic near my house. At my first appointment, they diagnosed with MRSA. You know, MRSA, the big scary hospital superbug that no one wants to get? Yeah, that. Ten days of doxicycline and I was supposedly good to go.

I had to keep going to the new wound clinic, weekly at first, and then every two weeks. We put Aquacel covered by various foam dressings on my cheek and my recovery was slow. Very, very slow.

This fall, the wound care clinic switched me to monthly check-ups. In December, I was frustrated with my progress and decided to try putting a hot compress on the wound after having success with a boil on my leg. Unfortunately, within days of starting the hot compresses, the wound spread down my cheek and into the jaw area. I ended up having two separate wounds: one, just below the jaw that had the depth of a ping-pong ball, and the original one of my cheek.

I ended up in the hospital and was diagnosed with a hard-to-treat staph infection. I was on IV antibiotics for three days in the hospital just before Christmas and have been on oral antibiotics for the last three weeks. I have less than a week of medication to go and both wounds are very close to healed.

This has been a long hard journey. Hopefully, I’m near the end.

1 week down, 51 to go!

I’m doing well on my 2014 goals.

  • I’ve read three books so far (Dexter is Delicious and Dexter by Design, both by Jeff Lindsay, and Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat) for my 50 book reading challenge. (Challenge yourself on GoodReads!)
  • I’ve written every day. This Wonder Woman journal makes it fun.
  • I’ve posted a new #365FeministSelfie photo of myself every day to Instagram..
  • I’ve spent time resting, cuddling with my dogs, talking with family, and indulging in a few laughs via Parks and Recreation on Netflix. “Self-care” box? Check, check.

How is 2014 treating you?