“Stang riding” as punishment for male victims of intimate partner violence

domestic violence DV woman commons

Stang riding, alternatively referred to as stanging, charivari, or riding the skimmington is a centuries-old practice intended to shame male victims of intimate partner violence by parading them through town on a wooden platform while enduring 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 male victims; ie. telling them to “man up” or by insinuating that a man must have done something wrong to “cause” his female partner to act violently.

From old newspaper reports in 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 men and women transgressing social norms, including the norm that a man should defend himself when his wife perpetrated physical violence against him – i.e. If the man failed to defend himself he 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 man who allows his wife to beat him, [is] still followed in some parts of the country. It consists of making him 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 his termagant wife to beat him; 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 woman was known to have beaten her husband, and the mode of procedure was as follows:- the neighbours being assembled together, two men get into a cart and are drawn about by other men, 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 men 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 he [ie. Bent] allowed his wife to thrash him, he would give him the benefit of a Stang Ride. It was not long before Muddyman’s anticipations that Bent’s wife would thrash him were realized, and not forgetting his 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 her good man;
Not for eating or drinking or feeding on souse,
But for spending two-pence in a neighbour’s house;
If he’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 woman has beaten her man,
Neither with sword, dagger or knife,
But with an old shuttle she’d like to have taken his 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 wife wearing the gallskins. When it is known (which it generally is) that the wife falls out with her spouse, and beats him right well, the people of the town or village produce a ladder, and instantly repair to his house, where one of the partly is powdered with flour–face blackened–cocked hat placed upon his cranium–white sheet thrown over his shoulders–is seated astride the ladder–with his back where his face should be–they hoist him upon men’s shoulders–and in his hands he 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 her husband hang.
But if I hear tell that she doth rebel,
Or him 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 man in the latter example is forced to carry a “long brush, tongs, and poker,” household objects usually attended by women, perhaps as an attempt to feminize and portray him as unmanly. One is reminded here of the centuries old Henpecked Club which held annual street processions of battered men carrying women’s household utensils, which symbolized their humility and humiliation.

Stanging as a method of shaming abused men 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 male victims of domestic violence. While this history is readily available in newspaper and other archives, today’s historians of sociology have avoided any publishing or commentary on the material, hence this article to raise awareness of what we might aptly refer to as his-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: Men as the Unacceptable Victims of Marital Violence
Fire-poker princesses: a snapshot of female violence in nineteenth-century England
The Henpecked Club – a 200 year fellowship of abused husbands
A random selection of nineteenth century newspaper articles referencing stanging

Petticoat government (1702)

1702_cover“Examine the nature of Petticoat Government and you’ll find small difference or, if any, the Woman excells the man. For the Woman is justly called ‘The Crown of the Creation,’ for if we look into Genesis we shall find that Woman was the last work in the creation and therefore the most perfect and absolute; as we see when artisans make an excellent piece they keep polishing till the last, as being the perfection and crown of it all. But reader, I have only here given some few glances and shadows of the glory and magesty that attends Pettycoats; to know it better you must view our Gracious Queen in Her person and conduct; Her heart is entirely English; she was made purposely for our crown and scepter; Her very looks and countenance would command our allegiance; the very cast of Her eye would sufficiently persuade us that Her authority is just and deserved, that it is a suitable power that is in the mind and meaning of providence and, in a word, is nothing more than God or Nature intended: that women should govern as well as the men… But virtue and greatness are of the perfection and essence of Pettycoat Government, and complete Her Magisties character.

“I am of the opinion that men can boast of no endowments of the mind which Women possess not in as great, if not greater eminency. There has been no age or nation that has not produced some females renown’d for their wisdom and virtue. Which makes me conclude that the conversation of Women is no less useful than pleasant; and that when they govern the men are extremely happy.

“Now it may be necessary that governors should be of good entertainment, affable, open of countenance, and such as seem to harbour no crooked or dark design; thus no men can be so fit for government as Women are. For besides their natural sweetness and innocency, their talk is commonly directed to such things, as it may be easily inferr’d, that their heads are not troubled about making of wars, enlarging of empires, or founding of tyrannies. How few men-prophets do histories afford us in comparison to prophetesses? And, even at this day, who are such absolute followers of priests as women are? If you wish them merciful, these are the tenderest things on earth; they have tears at command, and if tears be the effect of pity and compassion, ans pity and compassion be the mother of virtue, must we not think that mercy rules most in them, and is the soonest obtain’d from them? If you wish affection to the country, where can you better have it? For have not Women many times cut off their hairs to make ropes for engines, and strings for bows?

Thus, were this noble sex restored to that right which nature hath bestowed on it, we have all quiet and serenity in the commonwealths, and courts would not taken up with factions and underminings, but all flow into pleasure and liberty. Withal, we know how necessary it is in every statesman to be master of all the artifices and sleights that may be, to gain upon them he deals with. Now, if any can be fitter for this than Women, I am much deceiv’d: for what by their importunities, glances, trains, sleights, ambushes, and little infidelities, it is as impossible to escape them as it is to go into the fire and not get burnt. For my own part, were I to marry, a good wife should govern both my person and purse, my time and everything; and for this reason a rich Milanois was wont to say that the strings of his purse were never so hard tied that his Betty had no chance tio loose’ em.

We must therefore conclude that as women bring forth children into the world, as they multiply themselves into these visible and corpereal souls, and after they have brought them forth, and most tender and careful to bring them up; so it is most fitting, having such pre-eminencies and indulgences of Nature, that when they are brought up, they should also have a government of them: For a potter would think it hard measure if, after the pitcher were made, it should fly in his face. And (which is no small honour to Petticoat Government) the Woman excelleth the man in respect of the matter of which she was made, which was not dead and vile clay, as man’s was, but a purified substance enliven’d and endu’d with soul, participating in the Divine Mind.

“Thus have I fairly prov’d there is no creature so perfect, no wonder so to be admired as WOMAN: And Ladies, God hath heaped all these graces on your beautiful sex to the end that every creature might stand amazed at you, love and obey you; as we see by experience that incorporeal spirits doat upon Women with most ardent affections – which is such an approved truth that none, I think, would deny it. And if Women were such angels both in body and mind, and Petticoat Government such a particular and extraordinary blessing, (as all must own that we are govern’d by a Queen whose royal virtues exceeds all I have said in praise of her sex) I wonder at the unnatural fancy of such people as would wish we might procreate like trees, as if they were ashamed of the act, without which they had never been capable of such an extravagant thought. Certainly, he that created us, has riveted the Love of Women in the very center of our natures.

“So that ’tis clear from what I’ve said (of the excellency and pre-eminence of Ruling Women) that government is the rudder which steers the great vessel of the State; and that Petticoat Government is the most dextrous handling of that rudder; and for that reason ’tis only WOMEN that are now pray’d for in our churches and chapels viz. Her Perfect Majesty the Queen Dowager and the Princess Sophia.

But i shan’t only confine my essay to Petticoat Government as in respects of the public; for I design a more general essay upon Petticoat Government however dignify’d or distinguished:

1. Then, by Petticoat Government I mean when good women ascend the throne and rule according to law, as is the case of the perfect Queen.
2. Again by Petticoat Government, I mean the descreet and housewifely Ruling of house and family.
3. And lastly, by Petticoat Government, I mean when bad women usurp all authority over their husbands, as is the case with shrews, and such as command, and (perhaps) Beat their husbands, for which there is often a riding, as I shall shew in a variety of instances

“But now, Ladies (except in your own houses) where shall I find any Women so regular as to follow these rules of government? A She-governor thus accomplish’d is like a star with five rays; devotion, modesty, chastity, siscretion, and charity; such women whose whole composition is made up of these, seem to have moulded upon the celestian globes by the hands of cherubims; so excellent are their virtues and so sweet their deportments. They are in their houses as the sun in its proper sphere. Should I attempt to represent their worth, i might sooner find poverty in the center of all the rich ore and precious-stones of the earth, than want of merit in them; but more especially in that Gracious Princess who now governs: And as in former times the tyranny of the Danes was suppress’d by the wisdom and courage of our English Women, so ’tis not doubted but the matchless conduct of our Gracious Queen, will humble the pride of France.

“But to return again to our Private Governess, it must be confess’d that there are many who every day (instead of discreet and housewifely Ruling of their house and family) must be dres’d up like idols as if they intended to be worshipp’d, or at least to govern (as Maintenon does -the tyrant of France) with a look or nod. Their fill de chambre, have more to do in attending their beauties than some have in fitting and rigging out the Navy! Their glass with studied advantages takes up the whole morning, and the afternoon is spent in visits. It was therefore a true saying of one very applicable to this purpose; I know not what may be reserved for the eyes of the chaste husband, when almost thro’ all the matkets where they go, the secret parts of his wife’s body are expos’d, as if they were ready to be delivered to the best bidder.

Ladies, having treated of Petticoat Government as it relates to women in public capacity; and in a private capacity as it relates to the hosewifely ruling of the house and family: I should next treat of Petticoat Government as it relates to bad women who usurp an authority over their husbands (as is the case of shrews, such as command and (perhaps) Beat ’em) but this is intended for a second Pert of Petticoat Government. Thus (Ladies) have I set Petticoat Government in a true light, that the men might see what reason they have to LOVE and OBEY you. ‘Tis true, I have not us’d any gay or painted language, but plain and simple… I have therefore study’d to treat your sex, without the dressing of any artificial handsomeness or auxiliary beauty. If you like it, smile upon it; if not, draw the curtain of your charity over it, and let it lie till some abler pen-man shall take pencil in hand. Or if (Ladies) you’ll condescend too far, as to inrich my poor performance with your Noble Patronage ’tis the greatest preferment I dare expect; for, Court Ladies are incarnate angels, and move in a sphere above me: Yet when I consider that no present, of what value soever, can be suitable to one of your illustrious character, it gives me encouragement to hope this trifle may not be less acceptable to your matchless goodness. But twere profaneness in me any longer to divert with my rude pen, your divine thoughts and precious moments, that are still employed in imploring blessings for your Royal Mistress, and the whole nation. Then seeing the chief thing in greatness, is the power it gives to oblige, I shall presume so far as to subscribe my self:

 

Ladies,

Your Ever Obedient, and

Most Humble Servant,

Post-Angel

God Save the Queen.

Source: Petticoat-Government in a Letter to the Court Lords by the Author of the Post-Angel (1702)