Can Steampunk Be Feminist?
Steampunk culture might be your new hobby.
This past Saturday, my little brother and I attended the Watch City Steampunk Festival in my hometown, Waltham. The entire town square was flooded with pseudo-Victorian gothic mayhem, and the traffic was a nightmare, but it definitely was worth it. This event was created to help fund the restoration of my city’s museum after a major flood, and it is part of Waltham’s efforts to keep its rich history alive.
Steampunk is largely based around the idea that the world would have been completely different if steam power had taken hold after the Industrial Revolution instead of electricity. Mechanical, steam-based machinery abounds and fantasy and science fiction are married in a Victorian-mimicking, Wild West-parodying, eyebrow-raising new way. Waltham’s role in the world of steampunk is quite fascinating:
The American Waltham Watch Company was my hometown’s claim to fame between 1850 and 1957, and the Waltham Watch Factory and the Museum still stand here today. The preservation of these historic monuments has been integral since the cessation of the manufacturing, so when, in March of 2010, the museum was damaged by a flood, the Steampunk Festival seemed the perfect was to bring history alive again — clock cogs and pocketwatches on chains really suit the aesthetic — and raise enough money to keep the museum going.
Ever since its inception in 2011, it’s been a great way for people from all walks of life to showcase their creativity by constructing elaborate costumes, roleplaying complex plots loosely based on Victorian-era life, and selling handmade works of art that are almost impossibly intricate.
Never have I seen a more enthusiastic group of cosplayers (costumed roleplayers) and LARPers (Live Action Role Players) with such imaginative costumes. And there were people of all types there. Myriad people of color blending traditional wear, hijabs, turbans, and yamulkes with goggles and corsets; “steam-powered” wheelchairs and hand-carved or iron-wrought crutches; married couples in matching top hats; elderly LARPers; babies dressed as aviators; dogs dressed as dragons… I saw a little bit of everything. You haven’t lived until you see steampunk Batman playing the accordion.
Steampunk has the potential to be an extremely inclusive and diverse sub-culture, and I’d love for more hobbyists to get involved in creating a beautiful and meaningful community like this in a world where we have such toxicity as Gamergate and the dark side of the My Little Pony fandom (seriously; I won’t even link to that graphic content). Steampunk is something that can be for everyone, so grab your goggles, and get going!
Click these links for more photos from this year’s fest:
Originally published at www.theodysseyonline.com on May 17, 2016.