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Permalink to original version of ““Stang riding” as punishment for female victims of intimate partner violence” “Stang riding” as punishment for female victims of intimate partner violence

Stang riding, alternatively referred to as stanging, charivari, or riding the skimmington is a centuries-old European practice intended to shame female victims of intimate partner violence by parading them through the town on a wooden platform while endure mockery and ridicule by onlookers. Essentially a vigilante justice action, the practice ceased by the earlier part of last century, or rather has been supplanted by more subtle forms of shaming female victims; ie. telling them to “woman up” or by insinuating that a woman must have done something wrong to “cause” her male partner to act violently.


From old newspaper reports from England we get clear evidence of the desire to shame those who rode the stang:


Stang riding – It has been asserted by an old writer that “Shame produceth reformation, where punishment faileth.” 1


“Riding the stang” was one of the few old customs still remaining by which the people of a particular place took the law into their own hands as an assumed right. It was formerly the tendency of the law that for minor offenses the culprits should be punished by some process that appealed to their sense of shame, such as that of the stocks or ducking stool, the pillory and so forth, and “riding the stang” was a popular way of acting on the same principle. 2


Stang riding was employed for married women and men transgressing social norms, including that a woman should defend herself when her husband perpetrated physical violence against her – i.e. If the woman failed to defend herself she was forced to ride the stang, as described in the following English newspaper articles from the 1800s:


Stang Riding, or Riding the Skimmington, a mode of punishing certain delinquencies, or of ridiculing a woman who allows her husband to beat her, [is] still followed in some parts of the country. It consists of making her ride a wooden horse in procession, with the accompaniment of much noise.3


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Stanging, or riding the stang, was a name by which a mode of punishment, at one time very popular, especially in the north of England, was known. It was resorted to in cases where, through the frailty or fault of either party, conjugal felicity had been violated. Sometimes the punishment was occasioned by a rustic swain having allowed her termagant husband to beat her; and this form of the custom has given rise to the slang word “stangey,” ie. a person under petticoat government.4


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In several parts of this country there was an old custom… believed to be of Saxon origin, prevailing, which was called Riding Stang. It occurred when a man was known to have beaten his wife, and the mode of procedure was as follows:- the neighbours being assembled together, two women get into a cart and are drawn about by other women, when they beat an old tin can with a stick, a number of nonsensical lines are repeated, and the assembled multitude shout; and all this must be done in four neighbouring townships before the Stang Riding can be completed. Two women of the names Bent and Muddyman sometime ago came to reside at Hyde from a Stang Riding district, where they had not long been, before Bent got married, and Muddyman promised that when she [ie. Bent] allowed her husband to thrash her, she would give her the benefit of a Stang Ride. It was not long before Muddyman’s anticipations that Bent’s husband would thrash her were realized, and not forgetting her promise, a muster was made, and the ceremony was commenced on the evening of the 27th of July, when the plaintiff and Muddyman got into a cart, with a stick and a saucepan, with which they contrived to make some music, and the plaintiff repeated the following lines:-


Ran, dan, dan,

This you mun know by the sound of our can,

One of our neighbours has beat his good woman;

Not for eating or drinking or feeding on souse,

But for spending two-pence in a neighbour’s house;

If she’ll be a good fellow and do so no more,

We won’t never sound our can at no neighbour’s door.


Muddyman, who was in the cart, and held one of the musical instruments, then made the following beautiful response:-


Tink of a kettle—tank of a pan,

This brassy-faced man has beaten his woman,

Neither with sword, dagger or knife,

But with an old shuttle he’d like to have taken her life.

…The can was then again tinkled, and the shout having been set up, the cart was drawn to the townships of Godley and Haughton, the crowd accompanying it, where the same ceremony was performed, and the cavalcade returned in perfectly good order, through Hyde, toward another township, it being necessary that they should visit four.5


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The stang is of Saxon origin, and is practiced in Lancashire, Cumberland, and Westmoreland, for the purpose of exposing a kind of gynocracy, or, the husband wearing the gallskins. When it is known (which it generally is) that the husband falls out with his spouse, and beats her right well, the people of the town or village produce a ladder, and instantly repair to her house, where one of the partly is powedered with flour–face blackened–cocked hat placed upon her cranium–white sheet thrown over her shoulders–is seated astride the ladder–with her back where her face should be–they hoist her upon women’s shoulders–and in her hands she carries and long brush, tongs, and poker. A sort of mock proclamation is then made in doggerel verse at the door of all the ale-houses in the parish, or wapentake, as follows:


It is neither for your sake nor my sake

That I ride the stang;

But it is for Nancy Thomson,

Who did his wife hang.

But if I hear tell that he doth rebel,

Or her complain, with fife and drum

Then we will come,

And ride the stang again.

With a ran tan tang,

And a ran tan tan tang,” &c.6



Notice the woman in the latter example is forced to carry a “long brush, tongs, and poker,” household objects usually attended by men, perhaps an attempt to masculize and portray her as unwomanly. One is reminded here of the centuries old Henpecked Club, which held annual street processions of battered women carrying men’s household utensils which symbolized their humility and humiliation.


‘Stanging’ as a method of shaming abused women took many forms, differing from town to town and from incident to incident. However one thing these rituals had in common was the attempt to shame women suffering domestic violence by husbands. While this history is readily available in newspaper and other archives, today’s sociology students and departments have with one voice avoided any publishing or commenting on the material, hence this article to raise awareness of what we might aptly refer to as her-tory.


Sources:


[1] Chester Chronicle – Friday 28 May, 1813

[2] Cork Examiner – Monday 28 August, 1865

[3] Salisbury and Winchester Journal – Saturday 27 September, 1856

[4] Kent and Sussex Courier – Friday 13 August, 1880

[5] Chester Chronicle – Friday 27 April, 1827

[6] Lancashire Mirror – 18 January, 1829


See also:


Riding the Donkey Backwards: Women as the Unacceptable Victims of Marital Violence

Fire-poker princes: a snapshot of male violence in nineteenth-century England

The Henpecked Club – a 200 year fellowship of abused wives

A random selection of nineteenth century newspaper articles referencing stanging