Gender Roles: “What’s That Smell in the Kitchen” by Piercy


“What’s That Smell in the Kitchen” by Marge Piercy is a poem that relates to my childhood experience. Since I was young, I have been taught by my parents and grandparents that my role as a woman was to perform domestic chores like cooking, cleaning, etc. On the contrary, I was taught that the role of a man was to provide for the family. Piercy’s poem attracted my attention and touched the right chord because I was frustrated and tired of stereotyped gender roles in our society. Margie Piercy gives a very vivid description in her poem, and this has not only enabled me to almost smell the aromas of different foods that women were preparing, but it has also made me feel her pain and frustration revealed in the poem. Piercy brought to light the domestic chores women around the world are obligated to fulfill, and when she writes, “All over America women are burning dinners”, she captures the attention of readers, and make them delve into deep thoughts.

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Analysis of the Poem

Society has always been aware of stereotyped gender roles that make the kitchen a women’s place, but Piercy dared to bring this truth to the public. When she states that “once I was roast duck on your platter with parsley but now I am Spam” (lines 20-21), I can feel her despair. This line captured my attention and provoked me to think at a deeper level, and I believe that the entire poem can be summarized by this one line. This is because this line shows how men normally pamper women before they marry them; but after marriage, they expect them to be some type of “domestic workers”, who should always cook and clean for them.

We live in the modern era, and not in the 1900s when women had no rights and depended on their husbands for everything. I hope to see a society that treats women as equals. However, considering the state of things, I am afraid that gender-stereotyped roles that consider women as housewives, cooks, and cleaners will persist for a little bit longer. Piecy’s poem has inspired me to make the following decision. In the future, when I have children of my own, I will not teach them gender roles. I will treat them equally, whereby my daughter will perform roles associated with men, and sons will be able to carry out tasks considered to be females’ ones like washing dishes. Both of them will be able to alternate in doing the household chores.

Piecy’s poem is an indication of how societies undermine women and prevent them from progressing by making them center on performing domestic duties. When parents socialize their children and teach them gender roles, boys will grow up expecting women to take care of them and their homes. On the other hand, girls will grow up expecting that men should provide for them.


“What’s That Smell in the Kitchen” is a poem that speaks against gender-stereotyped roles in society. The tone of the poem is full of despair, frustration, and disappointment. The author uses this tone to attract the attention of readers and demonstrate the seriousness of this issue. The author also laments how men treat women after they marry them. This poem can also be considered as a feminist literary piece of the 20th century.

Works Cited

Piercy, Marge. “What’s That Smell in the Kitchen?” Poetry: A Pocket Anthology. 6th ed. Ed. R.S. Gwynn. New York: Pearson, 2009. 338-339. Print.

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"Gender Roles: “What’s That Smell in the Kitchen” by Piercy." StudyCorgi, 27 Apr. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Gender Roles: “What’s That Smell in the Kitchen” by Piercy." April 27, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Gender Roles: “What’s That Smell in the Kitchen” by Piercy." April 27, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Gender Roles: “What’s That Smell in the Kitchen” by Piercy." April 27, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Gender Roles: “What’s That Smell in the Kitchen” by Piercy'. 27 April.

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