Calling women gold diggers has made a lot of money for a lot of men, from rappers to scriptwriters to, most recently, the various bloggers, journalists and radio hosts implying that Chris Rock’s soon-to-be ex-wife is one. A gold digger is a woman who goes after a rich man for his money, one whose greatest goal is to “trap him” with a child or a pre-nuptial agreement-less marriage, meaning she can sit back pretty, living large off of child support or alimony checks. She never loved him in the first place, would not have been with him if his bank account didn’t fill her with fantasies of future riches she didn’t have to work for.
Hollywood is overflowing with women — and men — just like this. So is corporate America and other worlds with a concentration of well-paid people. It’s so common that even Chris Rock has made a few dollars talking about gold diggers and how lovely divorce is for women financially. In his 1996 standup special Bring the Pain, he went so far as to say that O.J. Simpson should not have killed Nicole Brown Simpson, but considering how much she was getting in alimony, it made a little more sense out of murder. He also argued that rich men aren’t necessarily the ones with the most to lose in a divorce, that if you lose half of $20 million, you are still okay; but losing half of $30,000 might lead you to kill someone yourself.
Five months after Bring the Pain, in November 1996, Rock married Malaak Compton. And now, nineteen years, two children and one expired prenup later, he has filed for divorce. This week court papers revealed that Compton-Rock is requesting half of her husband’s $70 million valued net worth and that the sum will “commensurate with the marital standard of living.” When the news got out, the press brought out all its sexist, race-tinged crazy.
Here are just a couple of the headlines written in the last 24 hours: “Chris Rock's wife seeking huge payout in divorce, court papers show” and “Chris Rock’s wife wants to cash in on divorce.”
Page Six said that she wants to “live the life of a celebrity spouse even after they’re divorced,” adding she strives to “maintain a Champagne-and-caviar lifestyle.” Though no journalist has shown evidence of this caviar lifestyle that Malaak purportedly lives now — most of her public appearances involve charity work she’s involved in — few have hesitated to attack her for going after what they see as her husband’s — not her — money.
What is also interesting is that when white women married for nearly two decades divorce rich male celebrities, the mainstream press does not run wild talking about the “lavish” lifestyle they are seeking to uphold. Is it that our culture is so comfortable placing Black women in the gold digger category that now it even applies to longtime wives, wives who did not initiate divorce proceedings and who have never been rumored to have had an affair or do anything public that showed they weren’t in it for love? If Malaak was white and wanted half of the fortune that she arguably helped build, would the press be supporting her and reminding us of all of the rumors that have plagued Chris, that is, gossip about paternity lawsuits and cheating with co-stars?
Instead, this is just one more example of how the rules around Black women’s reputations can be so different than the rules other women must deal with. And the tragedy is that now, on top of watching her family break apart, Malaak must watch herself become the victim of a public smear campaign.
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