Horse Woman – Woman Horse

Horse Woman – Woman Horse, Performance, Duration 1 1/2 Hours, Division of Labour, Malvern.


Human Bridle

‘Some punishments were very heavily gendered. The scold’s bridle symbolized the idea that women were like animals, because horses were made to wear bits and bridles. But there was also the practical effect that the bridle stopped a woman from speaking. Speech was said to be one of the main things that set humans apart from all other animals. By taking away her power of speech the bridle made a woman more bestial in practice as well as in theory.’




‘..the ‘scold’s bridle’ or ‘brank’, a particularly nasty piece apparatus that emerges in records of the late sixteenth century as a tool of coercion to enforce women’s silence. The bridle was a metal contraption that covered or encircled the woman’s head and incorporated an iron bar or ‘gag’ to hold her tongue down, thus preventing speech. The association of the unruly woman with a horse that needs breaking is obvious, and no doubt part of the punishment was the shame of being reduced to the status of an animal.

A woman accused of scolding – basically, any form of unsanctioned female speech that was perceived as unruly or disruptive – had this vicious device forcibly shoved into her mouth and locked around her head. She was then subjected to the ritualised public humiliation of being led or dragged through the town, tied up in the public square and pelted with rubbish and excrement, urinated on, and otherwise mocked and degraded. In parts of England, there is also some evidence to indicate that a husband could have his wife bridled and tied up to a hook embedded beside the fireplace in their home.

Scold’s bridles took various forms, but their general design is such that at the least, they would inflict a measure of pain and discomfort. Some versions, which featured spikes or rasps on the gag part that is inserted into the woman’s mouth, would clearly inflict severe pain and damage. A 1653 account from Newcastle talks of a woman being led through the town with blood pouring from her mouth; other accounts allude to teeth being broken or wrenched out, and even of jawbones and cheekbones being cracked. A perilously high price to pay for the ‘sin’ of voicing an opinion.’

Lynda E. Boose, ‘Scolding Brides and Bridling Scolds: Taming the Woman’s Unruly Member’, Shakespeare Quarterly 42, no. 2 (1991): 179-213.



Fiona Mcgregor

Fiona Mcgregor, Water # 1 – Descent, 2008.

‘For six hours, the salt-covered body lay below a latex bladder of locally collected rainwater, which dripped onto the forehead. The salt was Murray River salt from Mildura; the bladder also contained water collected in sites from Lake Eyre, through the Murray River and outback Australia, to eastern NSW.

Dealing with cycles and consumption, the performance was due to run for 24 hours, but finished earlier than expected. The artist’s 54 kilo body weight was echoed by 54 litres of water in the bladder.’

Fiona Mcgregor, Tidal Walk, 2009.

‘Bondi Beach 11 hour 36 minute endurance performance 14th June, 2009

A walk up and down Bondi Beach for the duration of a tide cycle. 6.42-18.18. Low tide, high tide, low tide. 10-13 degrees celcius. No rests taken, no food eaten, water drunk.

Every third lap self-filmed.’