'We Are Holding Everyone Else to a Higher Standard': Halle Berry on Shifting Hollywood's Sexism—and Starting Early With Her Son

Illustration for article titled 'We Are Holding Everyone Else to a Higher Standard': Halle Berry on Shifting Hollywood's Sexism—and Starting Early With Her Son
Photo: Robin Beck (Getty Images)

When it comes to combating sexism, Halle Berry believes it starts at home and should start young. Accordingly, the Oscar-winning actress and first-time director of the upcoming Bruised, debuting this week at the Sundance Film Festival, is already challenging problematic beliefs and rhetoric as they arise with her young son, Maceo Martinez (from her marriage to fellow actor Olivier Martinez).


“I have a 7-year-old son, and I have realized what my job is in raising him,” she said last weekend during the Sundance Film Festival virtual panel “Women Breaking Barriers: An Industry Shift?,” according to People. “If we want to have a future that’s different, that is where it starts.”

Zendaya, Andra Day, Robin Wright and Sia were also on hand for the hourlong discussion, hosted and moderated by Hollywood Foreign Press Association members Elisabeth Sereda and Silvia Bizio. Acknowledging that gender bias is imprinted earlier and more subtly than we might ever suspect, Berry noted, “You made me think of how many conversations I’ve had with him, say, since he’s turned 5 years old, about the differences in boys and girls, and I see how he’s taught to feel like he’s superior, at 5, than girls are.”

“I’ve had to really break that down for him and give him a new perspective, and challenge those thoughts and ask him to identify where that comes from, and if he believes that or not and challenge what he’s subconsciously getting from somewhere,” she continued. “I can tell that because we’re having those conversations he is going to grow as a deep thinker on the subject. He’s going to be determined not to just accept it. I keep challenging him all the time, like ‘Well, why is that a ‘girl color?’”

It was one of the many questions raised by the moderators, who noted that they’d placed a question mark behind the panel’s title to interrogate whether Hollywood’s stated missions to increase diversity and parity are ultimately more performative than progressive. In response, Berry remained optimistic.

“I do feel like since Black Lives Matter [has] become sort of this global movement—I do think because of Me Too and Time’s Up women are being treated differently, and we are holding everyone else to a higher standard than we ever used to because we now realize that we absolutely can. And we are not feeling guilty about demanding parity and equality on many different levels, wherein the past, I think we were maybe not as confident in speaking up for what we knew deserved because we ourselves sort of fell into ‘the system’. But because of those organizations and those movements that have happened, I think we now know we’re not standing alone anymore; we have groups behind us that can support us.

“I think that we are individually finding our voice in a more powerful way—I know as a Black woman, I’ve never felt more empowered [than] in the last two years,” Berry added. “I’ve been in the industry almost 30 years; the last two or three years, I finally came into my own power...We have a voice. It needs to be heard.”


The entire “Women Breaking Barriers: An Industry Shift?” discussion can be viewed below.

Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?



Well, why is that a ‘girl color?’

There is not a non-biased answer to this question. Sex-specific colours didn’t become a thing until the 20th century and pink (strong) was originally for boys and blue (delicate) for girls. It wasn’t until the 1940's that babies were dressed in pink for girls and blue for boys. That switch-around renders arguments for the actual colours moot...leaving nothing but the sexist adjectives used to describe them.

Not to take away from the point or anything I’m just saying that it really is the perfect question to raise in these discussions.