During the the early part of this decade, a satirical tome took on the role of men in popular society and proclaimed the right and wrong way to be a man.
Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche: A Guidebook to all that is Truly Masculine (Pocket Books), written by Bruce Feirstein and illustrated by Lee Lorenz, was a tongue-in-cheek look at the world of men, what they should be like and how to aspire to be macho men in the face of the politically-correct, sensitive world they now found themselves inhabiting.
The book liberally used the phrase ‘quiche-eater’ as an archetype of what men should not be: an over-anxious conformer, trend-catcher and dilettante. Not the tough guy, the guy who doesn’t think about his appearance 24/7 or focuses on how to deal with his feelings. Real men didn’t make a quiche for the woman in their lives, and then clean up afterwards.
Fierstein’s book was a response to the previous decade of feminism and wanting to offer a silly explanation for the way men had become – confused by their role in society if they couldn’t be the archetype man – who were they supposed to be?
The book spent 55 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List, and sold over 1.6 million copies.
The phrase certainly implanted into popular culture’s lexicon, with many other books released within the next few years and decades: Real Dogs Don’t Eat Leftovers, Real Women Never Pump Iron, Real Men Don’t Apologize, Real Kids Don’t Say Please, Real Men Don’t Say Splendid and Real Women Send Flowers.
Joyce Jillson’s Real Women Don’t Pump Gas was a companion book to Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche, and 10 years after publication, Fierstein wrote the sequel, Real Men Don’t Bond.
Like the film industry, the book industry loves a good theme – and exploits it as far and wide as possible. I remember the book’s publication and the ridiculousness of its contents, discussed by the Mums of my neighbourhood. I never read the book, not interested in something seemingly silly and somehow targeted as married women.
And although this book would be hard to find on shelves in any bookstore in this century, its satirical style is still found through imitators – in serious and laugh out loud books.