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Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Using our voice
So I was reading one of Anne Bishop's fantasy novels last night and in it she mentioned the use on women of something called a Scold's Bridle. I seemed to recall this being a real historical object(too many visits to Musuems of Torture while in Europe). So I googled and found this description -

A scold's bridle (also the brank or branks) was a torture device for women, resembling an iron muzzle or cage for the head with an iron curb projecting into the mouth and resting precariously atop the tongue. The curb was frequently studded with spikes so as to cruelly torture the tongue if it dared stir: lying calmly in place, it inflicted a minimum of pain.

It was designed as a mirror punishment for "scolds"—women whose speech was "riotous" or "troublesome"—by preventing them from speaking. However it was also used a corporal punishment for other offences, notably by female workhouse inmates. There are no records of it being used on men.
Click here for a picture.

Women whose speech was troublesome were silenced through torture. If men didn't like what a women said they could torture her to stop. How different are we today? Do you feel like women are allowed to use their voice freely without fear? What are our bridles if they exist?

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posted by Julie at 11:18 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 9/13/2006 08:43:00 AM, Blogger Doxallo

    I can only comment from my personal experiences, obviously - but I have never felt that my gender limited my ability to speak freely. Nothing in my current sphere indicates women who are limited (that I can think of now) however in other cultural climates (both inside and outside the US) I am sure there are those who are limited.

    I suspect there are women involved in marriages that are abusive to the point of silence being imposed, or with fathers that dictate this type of rule of law in their home.

    I'm just not personally familiar with any situations.

  • At 9/13/2006 10:15:00 AM, Blogger From the Margins

    So many! In our church/societal contexts I see submission/shame/guilt/control/ select scriptures to silence our voices / intimidation

    I think of the circumcision of women in Africa. Infant killing of female babies in India. These keep women devalued and unvoiced in a big way. The sex trading, the multibillion dollar female/child prostitution industry, of which America is a part.

    Great question, Julie

  • At 9/13/2006 12:40:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    check out this link for a story of one women's painful experience when her voice got too troublesome.

  • At 9/13/2006 12:42:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 9/13/2006 03:00:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    Wow Julie that is quite a story. I feel so much pain, frustration, sadness, etc. for what Ruth has endured. I know this happens a lot, and the politics envolved are always "so wonderful". Thanks for posting the link.

  • At 9/13/2006 03:04:00 PM, Blogger caz

    I think silencing of women is much more subtle in our culture (and perhaps not as violent as in other cultures), but definitely still present. I think of my own mother who felt silenced by the bigger than life presence of her husband who gave her no space to be her quieter self in a group. She has since told me of her complete surprise when people desired her conversation and company more than my father's.

    I am curious Doxallo, though you don't feel silenced yourself, have you not even seen such actions within your community or interactions with the people in the larger community you live in?

    I guess silencing takes different forms and has varying degrees, so perhaps we are all working from different definitions. But I see even the simple example of my mom as one that reflects how attitudes and assumptions can keep people, especially women, from understanding their value to others - the value of their voice and their mere presence.

  • At 9/13/2006 03:19:00 PM, Blogger caz

    One more thought...in an experience I had just yesterday, I have been thinking about the fear we carry about the opposite gender in our conversations. A very, very generalized statement is that men fear women's vulnerability in conversation and women fear men's strength.

    As a female, I carry the fear men have of my vulnerability with me at all times, and so I end up silencing myself in their presence because I don't want to scare them off. I assume the same is true for men; they hold back because they are carrying the fear women have of their strength and they don't want to scare us off either.

    In my very fresh thinking on this subject, I think this type of silencing is the source of much of our issues between genders...a two-way relationship that is resulting in both sides holding back and feeling both ashamed and angry because of it. And we are doing it out of fear of scaring off the other...hmmm...

  • At 9/13/2006 03:27:00 PM, Blogger Doxallo

    "I am curious Doxallo, though you don't feel silenced yourself, have you not even seen such actions within your community or interactions with the people in the larger community you live in?"

    I honestly have to say that I haven't. And I don't feel I am sheltered...maybe its just the circles I travel in or the geographic area. Or maybe I just haven't been in tune to it. (?)

    I live near DC - about halfway between DC and Baltimore. There are a lot of independent strong women around here! I am sure there are also those who are not, and maybe I just gravitate to those who are stronger. It may also be however that I have never been a girly-girl...not a lot of close women friends. I have seen women silenced, but not because of gender perse, but more their own personalities and choices.

    I'm a single mom to two. My daughter is 18, my son is 5. Except for 3 weeks, I have always been single (long story) and I work FT, pay my own bills, never have collected welfare or subsidizing or child support.

    I read the linked blog - of Ruth - and I am sure there is alot of that which goes on. I've experienced racial issues personally, but not gender. Also, as you said, I am sure it takes on different forms and degrees. I am often surprised at the ways people here think of things (so out of the box...emergent? lol) and so I will keep following the thread with interest. As I eluded to in my first post - I beleive there are different cultures within the US. It may be that in my circle I have not been made aware of it. Not to say its not there, but I'm ignorant of it if it is there.


  • At 9/13/2006 10:34:00 PM, Blogger unmuzzled

    My bridle is the teaching that the man is the head of the house, the preist, the protector. My own husband thinks this is total bull but my church deeply believes this theology. Half of the people in my church are taught that they need an other human to make them whole. Well I'm here to say that nothing comes between me and Christ---nothing.

    Yet I have the taste of metal in my mouth and feel of pain on my tongue.

  • At 9/14/2006 09:05:00 AM, Blogger Michelle K

    I agree with unmuzzled post...mine is the same - the man is the head of the house, etc. My husband doesn't take this to the extreme places that is taught by many but he does have a bit of it rolling around in his head. I can voice my opinion which he values and we can discuss but if the discussion involves making a decision, he feels that ultimately he is the one to decide. He can decide to agree with my choice OR he can decide to go with his choice. Either way, he being the head of the house, makes the decision because he feels that he is accountable to God for his place in the home.

    I've been wondering what other God-loving, husband valueing women think of this opinion.

  • At 9/14/2006 09:50:00 AM, Blogger Doxallo

    "He can decide to agree with my choice OR he can decide to go with his choice."

    Michelle, what would be your solution to this or the alternative?

  • At 9/14/2006 10:25:00 AM, Blogger Michelle K

    I really don't know an alternative. How else would you approach decisions because when you have a group dynamic...even in the family sense... some one ultimately has to be the decision maker.

    In some matters, I do make the decisions but because he's basically given it to me and there still remains that 'trump card' that can always be pulled for him to override something.

    It all sounds barbaric when I type it, I realize. But that's why I'm asking...how else can a group dynamic be workable?

  • At 9/14/2006 10:30:00 AM, Anonymous soldiermom

    I have been thinking about what bridles me, and the most common denominator is me! I allow my fear of rejection and my need for approval (which can be two different things) keep me from speaking into situations. Sometimes my self-bridle is for the best, because my need to control can be strong. (It is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt! Love that Proverb) But sometimes I am silent because of my insecurites. That is a damn shame.

    My husband and I have learned over the last 27 years that for us, we need to divide and conquer. There are things that he is better at than me. And things that I am better at then him. So I get the final say in somethings, and he gets it in others. This works very well for us and we have learned to trust each other better because of the fruit from our decisions.

  • At 9/14/2006 11:01:00 AM, Blogger Doxallo

    Michelle, Thats just it. Its not always, in my estimation, a gender problem. Not always an issue of a female being silenced due to gender or some male dominated societal ill.

    In groups there will always be the issue of decision making. Its great to say that EACH will submit to the other...but the dynamics in human relationships seems to be that one will emerge more dominant - whether it is male or female. One will hold that 'trump card'. in some marriages areas of management are divided - the husband wouldn't DREAM of making a decision about certain things and vice versa.

    I really think the idea of submission and cooperation is paramount.

    I don't see some of the issues as being 'gender' based. Take female circumcision in Africa, I am not equating that with the original post of silencing 'voice'. Thats just me....as mentioned, there are different ways of looking at it. I took it to be very literal. ;) The issues raised are good, valid, worthy...I just classify them differently I suppose.


  • At 9/14/2006 02:47:00 PM, Blogger From the Margins

    Janice, I think when it becomes a gender issue is when the church one attends teaches and preaches that Male Headship in marriage is an inerrant doctrinal issue ... God's perfect will for the perfect marriage! With this theology, males hold the ultimate authority over everything in marriage and, as Michelle said, can pull this doctrinal 'trump card' whenever. (And single women are subject to the male pastor/bishop as their 'Head' until marriage!)

    This doctrine makes it a gender issue.

    Ever think about this one?
    There is multiple evidence in many O.T. and N.T. verses/stories of God approving of the 'throwing of lots' as a legitimate means to make decisions, VERY IMPORTANT decisions as a matter of fact AND there's a Proverb to boot that indicates God in the action! Compare this to the few select verses on "submission" which have been so highly exalted and, at best, subjectively interpreted in our theologies since ... what, maybe Constantine?

    Selectivity is a wonderful thing for those who get to select. :-)

    SM: Your example has worked well for us, too.

  • At 9/14/2006 03:20:00 PM, Blogger Doxallo

    Hiya FTM,

    I get that part of it, in the context of marriage. Though I'm not sure I'm oppposed to that (male headship in marriage) its not something I've ever investigated in earnest for myself. :) I printed some information from the biblical equality website, but I have not yet had an opportunity to read it.

    The casting of lots is an interesting topic, I'm not well educated on it at all - whether it was used in certain circles or open for any group dynamic or if its applicable to us today. Is lots your solution?

    I suggested equal submission in marriage and that there are areas of management or decision making for each, which I think is the same thing you eluded to in response to SM. But I still believe someone is going to naturally end up being 'dominant' in the relationship. What are your thoughts?

  • At 9/14/2006 06:40:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    I'll throw my 2 cents. My background, and held belief by many in my family is that the "man is the head of the house". I say belief, because it is just that. Most of the women in my family have passive, laid back men for husbands. The women, most of the time are running the show. I have tried both ways in marriage, and am now trying to find the happy medium. Ironically, my situation is more cultural, than a "church" teaching thing. My husband is Hispanic, and was raised the men "take care of" the women, handle the money etc. Without much detail (much too long) that didn't work too well. I got to where I had $400 a month to spend for groceries, personal care, gas, etc. etc. When I would use credit cards (as a necessity) I feared what would come of it (usually a very bad fight). It was a total double standard. He could purchase anything, use credit cards whatever (he did because I had no idea most of the time). When I finally had enough, and we went round and round, I finally got somewhere. We are getting better at talking through things, and making joint decisions. We still have certain things I decide on and things he decides on, but I was pretty miserable trying to live up to the "head of the house" ideas. So the long short, I think that is the problem with that thinking sometimes, is the powerful "one" takes advantage. It can leave a really unhealthy and disfuctional situation in it's wake.

  • At 9/14/2006 09:32:00 PM, Blogger From the Margins

    Hey J: Well, we haven't used "lots" yet, but it's always been a possibility! We just can't decide if it should be 2 out of 3 or 3 out of 5! Ha!

    We talked and laughed about the biblical irony of this tonight at supper! Looking back, I can say with some ironic humor that there were some pretty goofy decisions that I made in the past that I think would have come out better if I had trusted God in the lots! :-)

  • At 9/14/2006 11:08:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    I've been mulling this over for a couple days now and had to pipe in...a little late I realize!

    Regardng the marriage aspect, my husband is also hispanic, but grew up in a more matriarchal home. We've come to operate our marriage around gifts and tend to stay away from the thought of who has a final decision. We're celebrating 8 years next month and it's worked so far...not perfect mind you!

    As far as a silencing of women's voices in the church, it's something we're working through in our church right now. I love that Sherri brought up the interpretation of stories and the impact that can have on people's views. I can fight for all I'm worth, but it's my story and the stories of others that begin to break past defenses and change the hearts of people. May each of our stories be blessed.

  • At 9/15/2006 02:50:00 PM, Anonymous soldiermom

    The stories listed here are heart breaking. It almost makes you wonder what God was thinking when he demanded that we submit to each other. But in some cases it can work out. Allow me to brag about my husband, if you will.

    When my kids were small I was a stay at home mom. I always handled the bills and gave my husband an allowance. I hated it! I hate thinking about money, bills, writing checks, blech. But I hated the thought of losing control over the money too!! So my husband, in his wisdom did a few interesting things. One, I got a checking account that was mine. He deposited the amount we agreed on each payday and I could use the money no questions asked. Then when he refinanced our mortgage he put the mortgage in his name and the house in both our names. In other words, if he left me or even if I left him, I would get the house and he would get the payments. That was an amazingly gracious thing to do! He was in control, but submitted to my fear of losing control.

    That was a long time ago. But he still is in submission to me about money. Recently he wanted to make a purchase. I balked because I like to give money to people who need it rather than buy stuff for myself. So, again he amazed me by setting up a savings account equal to the amount of the purchase that I could use to give away to whom ever I wanted. And he adds to it on a regular basis so my need to give is satisfied. Pretty cool, and pretty submissive.

  • At 9/16/2006 05:29:00 PM, Blogger From the Margins

    "I can fight for all I'm worth, but it's my story and the stories of others that begin to break past defenses and change the hearts of people. May each of our stories be blessed."

    Awesome, Amy! I'm encouraged.

  • At 9/22/2006 02:12:00 AM, Blogger Charlotte Wyncoop

    Better late than never?

    Just catching up and saw this discussion- my experience has not usually been men, but with women bridling me.

    I love to debate and discuss and don't usually mind doing it with either gender, but often the response from women is "why would you want to do that? It's a guy thing?"
    And when the topic of my desire to learn to preach comes up, it's even further down the road "I could never do that, are you crazy? Why on earth do you want to preach??"
    In my bible college, it was the guys who gave me a bad time and made it clear that those types of topics weren't valid, but 10 years later, in the church I attended, it was the women who played that role.



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