By Matthew DiGirolamo
When some of my female friends talk about the men they admire or find remarkable, they sometimes refer to them as “evolved.”
The logic that runs through this statement is that there is a standard-issue primitive male and then there is this whole other ideal specimen worthy of respect: The Evolved Man.
As I've heard him described, The Evolved Man is strong and sensitive, tough and compassionate.
He is a man who is comfortable with his feelings and knows how to express a full range of emotions. He listens when others talk.
In addition to sports and beer, The Evolved Man is cultured – appreciates music, art and literature – and stylish (but not too much).
He is self-aware and personally ambitious, but he is also passionate about a cause and acts in the service of others.
The Evolved Man respects and relates to women – and takes care of his responsibilities.
These qualities are supposed to make a man so extraordinary that a new category is needed to make sense of him.
The term itself makes me very uncomfortable because what often follows this glowing description of The Evolved Man, even from my most progressive of female friends, is that he has “embraced his feminine side.”
As a man, this phrase sets off alarms.
Many men have a dysfunctional relationship with things that have been gendered female, just as women have a similarly unhealthy relationship with things that have been gendered male.
It's no surprise. We were trained to think and tracked to be that way since birth.
Labeling a quality that can arise naturally in both men and women as “masculine” or “feminine” is the surest way to make them inaccessible and unattractive to the opposite sex.
All of us do this without even thinking about it.
Strength, power and leadership ability have long been viewed as male traits, and women must deal with the challenges of embracing those so-called masculine domains in the workplace every single day.
The women who are able to succeed in positions of power or leadership are often dismissed as “tough as nails” exceptions to the rule or are pitied for the femininity they've had to give up to make it work.
Compassion, sensitivity and a concern for others are not feminine traits that, when exhibited by a man, transform him into a super-male creature. That's just nonsense.
They are human qualities -- they are human virtues -- and the only reason you don't find more men modeling them now is because they are being viewed in such narrow and limiting ways.
And all of us, every day, are reinforcing these false notions of what makes us different or separate from the other sex.
If we want more men to “evolve” then we have to talk about that evolution in human terms, as a human ideal.
The best and highest versions of ourselves make us more human, not more evolved men or women.
What we need to embrace – men and women alike – are the qualities, traits and virtues that help us become more fully human and not just help us meet each other half way.
Matthew DiGirolamo is the Director of Marketing and Partnerships for The Women's Conference. He is a communications strategist and author of the Cause Catalysts blog. You can follow him on Twitter @mattdigirolamo.