Halle Berry wants her son to question gender stereotypes: ‘I keep challenging him’

Halle Berry as a fighter in the ring in her movie "Bruised"
Halle Berry stars in “Bruised,” her directorial debut about a former MMA fighter struggling to regain custody of her son and restart her athletic career.
(Toronto International Film Festival)

For Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry, the work to transform society starts at home. She and her 7-year-old son, she says, are in constant dialogue about gender, examining where his ideas come from and whether he actually believes them.

“I have realized what my job is in raising him,” Berry said during the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s “Women Breaking Barriers” panel, streamed live Sunday as part of the Sundance Film Festival.

To prompt critical thinking, she routinely asks her son, Maceo Martinez, questions like: “Why is that ‘for girls’?” and “Why is that ‘a girls color’?” (Berry is also mom to a daughter, 12-year-old Nahla Aubrey.)

At times, the conversations can be painful, said Berry, who is making her directorial debut with “Bruised,” which was bought by Netflix last September. In it, she plays a disgraced mixed martial arts fighter.


“I see how he’s taught to feel like he’s superior, at 5, [to] girls,” she said. When those sentiments pop up, she asks him follow-up questions like: “And why is that less than you?”

Berry’s hope is that the conversations will compel her son not to take gender at face value. “I’ve had to really break that down for him and give him a new perspective,” she said at the panel, which also included Zendaya and singer Andra Day, who stars in “The United States v. Billie Holliday.”

“As a cisgender woman, I now understand that I should not have considered this role,” Halle Berry said after expressing interest in playing a trans character.

July 7, 2020

Last year, Berry was challenged to examine her own privilege following social media backlash after announcing her plans to take on a transgender role.

“I am grateful for the guidance and critical conversation over the past few days,” Berry wrote on Twitter in July. “I vow to be an ally in using my voice to promote better representation on-screen, both in front of and behind the camera.”

As for her son — whom she defended last April after he was criticized for wearing high-heeled white boots with his PJs during COVID-19 quarantine — Berry is confident their conversations will enable him “to grow as a deep thinker on the subject.”

“If we want to have a future that’s different,” she said, “that is where it starts.”