'She can't keep a man': Shaming Halle Berry exposes a double standard

Tuesday morning I awoke to the news that Halle Berry was getting yet another divorce, this time from French actor Olivier Martinez.

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Tuesday morning, I awoke to the news that Halle Berry was getting yet another divorce, this time from French actor Olivier Martinez.

Without even thinking about it, I sighed and sarcastically muttered to myself, “Of course she is.”

For as long as I can remember, Berry’s unluckiness in love has been as much a part of her legacy as her historic Oscar win.

“Halle Berry fine, but you know she must be crazy.”

“Damn another divorce? What is she doing?”

“Clearly she’s one of those tragic mulattos. It might be time for her to quit.”

As I had snarky exchanges with my friends via text and read threads about Berry’s latest “conscious uncoupling,” one message seemed to be prevalent across the board: this woman is damaged goods.

But then I saw the tweet below and it made me pause, and yes, even check my own scathing judgments.


No one is above reproach, and this time it was my turn to go have a seat somewhere and examine where I’d gotten things twisted.

Would I ever hook up a close male friend (looking for a wife) with Halle Berry?

Probably not.

But why was I — and everyone else — so quick to label her a “failure” just because she has a couple divorces underneath her belt? In this day and age, statistically, that’s not even an anomaly anymore. So what are we really saying here?

When you look at men with a similar history of rotating partners, public perception is decidedly different.

Take George Clooney for instance. After he got divorced in 1993, it was two decades before he finally settled down again. Back in the day, every time he reached the 18 month mark with a woman, fans would gush about how dreamy he was as entertainment reporters giddily awaited the inevitable demise of his latest union.

Did we ever call him a failure for his laundry list of highly publicized breakups? Or course not. If anything, it just made him more desirable.

“I wonder what kind of woman will finally get George to settle down,” more than one daytime talk show host has mused over the years. The reason being that Clooney — even at the height of his unresolved commitment issues – was still seen as a “good man” and therefore a prize.

Halle Berry on the other hand, who has been pretty steadily employed since the 90’s, made history with her A-list achievements, birthed two beautiful children and at least attempted to build a life with both of their fathers — is a failure.


And before anyone makes this about race and points out that Clooney is a white man while Berry (albeit biracial) will always be viewed as a black woman… let me just stop you right there.

I don’t say it often, but this time, the issue is more so gender than race. There are a plenty of brothers out there who also have a harem of exes yet never get branded with the scarlet letter. The legendary Stevie Wonder has two ex wives, nine children and a total of four “baby mamas.” Is he a failure? Because never once have I heard someone say, “Damn, Stevie just got another divorce. Signed, sealed, delivered — he’s crazy.”

Steve Harvey — who is used as an example in the aforementioned Tweet — is on his second wife and at times says things that are so problematic he almost comes off like a Neanderthal from the evolution chart. Yet, we not only let this man write a book about relationships, we even turned it into a movie. The justification being that whatever he’s been through has only made him wiser and more qualified to help others.


So why does Halle Berry get none of that?

Why do we automatically give her the You know she ain’t right in the head raised brow every time one of her relationships comes to an end?

My sneaking suspicion is it’s because many of us have been taught any woman that beautiful, and that successful, who can’t “keep” a man must be the architect of her own demise. There must be something deeply unstable, uncooperative and perhaps even unlovable about her to make all these decent brothers see fit to leave her.

That underlying message is deeply rooted in a sexist double standard, so of course there are a million Hotep memes about it. Because that’s what Hotep does best.

If you look at the meme to your left, on the surface it looks harmless. But the wording and imagery is treading the line of male fragility so closely that if the woman pictured on that couch sneezed too hard — she’d land in Hotep wonderland and find herself covered in ankh’s and misogyny.

Most people want to let their guard down and get support from their mate. That’s no major revelation. But let’s not use that one simple truth as a backhanded way to spit that “strong black women are hard to love” game so many “conscious” ninjas live for.

Because that’s what’s really at the root of all this.

To some degree, we’ve been led to believe that a woman who is too strong willed, too determined, too mouthy or too accomplished is a headache. Her strength and success makes her harder to love. And if she happens to be gorgeous too, even better! When she proves to be a “failure” (i.e – human) by experiencing heartache, all the Plain Jane’s out there can go to sleep happy; knowing at least they can “keep” a man better than Halle Berry.

To paraphrase a famous urban philosopher, there is some serious hateration and holleration going on in this dancery. The sobering reality that I had, in any way, subscribed to it was enough to set me straight.

Unfortunately, Berry’s ex-husband David Justice found himself in a far less charitable place on Monday evening when he logged into his Twitter account. Instead of taking the high road and keeping his mouth shut, he used the news of his ex-wife’s impending divorce as an excuse to unleash a tidal wave of pettiness; with Eric Benet running in barefoot at the end, thirsty to cosign on the shenanigans.

A man who is still salty and bitter after 19 years and a crunchy R&B crooner who hasn’t had a hit single since he went to sex therapy — are these really the winners we want to judge Halle Berry so harshly for not being able to keep?

Let’s keep it real here folks: when you line up all of the Halle’s “failures,” the only thing we have any tangible proof of is that she has questionable taste in men.

And? Who hasn’t?

If smart, successful women picking unsuitable partners wasn’t a common occurrence, Steve Harvey would ironically be out of a job. There’s nothing rare or even notable about that. It happens to the best of us. And yet here we are, quick to pass judgment and question this woman’s sanity — over a break up.

Dismissing Halle Berry as a damaged woman simply because she has had a string of unsuccessful relationships isn’t just harsh, it’s hypocritical. According to that logic, who isn’t?

We gotta do better folks.


Author’s Note: David Justice is quietly backtracking from his initial social media rant and has deleted the inflammatory posts from his account. He even went so far as to thank his ex-wife, after TMZ fact checkers confirmed she never spoke ill of him in the press.

As for Eric Benet, below is a 2004 Oprah interview where the actress candidly explains how hard she worked to avoid divorcing him. The compassionate way she talks about his sex addiction even after their split makes his behavior this week particularly shady in comparison.

The segment begins at the 6:30 minute mark.