Interrupting this blog for a special bulletin — or, rather, a bit of an intellectual endeavor. I’ve been talking with Dr. Roger Whitson of Washington State University about steampunk — and he is currently working on an MLA Special Session proposal on the subject — and what came up in our discussion was the role of the social media and how it fosters and records the process of cultural change. Steampunk, which has been both upheld as a ideological movement and downplayed as an apolitical fashion trend, is only as politically substantial as people make it to be. But the use of the aethernetz, however, democratizes the power of social opinions and magnifies the power of these conversations. More importantly, however, all of these conversations create a more transparent picture of what cultural politics are actually happening on the ground, and opens up more possibilities of challenging “entrenched institutions”, as Roger explained to me, “…it is a politics that is removed from the exclusive analysis of the academic, the editor, and the expert, and placed into the hands of everyday people using social media.”
How can we gauge the political potential of our imaginations in the steampunk community?
Thus, Roger asked me to submit a brief response — at most 250 words — in reply to his questions: “What role do feminism and queer politics have in steampunk? What role should they have?” in order to assist his article on steampunk fandom and the digital archive.
And of course, being a steampunk, I rebelled, and, instead, unleashed this question to my fellow readers. To show a sampling of what political awareness the community has (and the application of that awareness to steampunk) I posted the above blog to Beyond Victoriana’s tumblr and another one to its Facebook page. After the jump, I do give my response, but it cannot be one made separate from the responses of many, many others.
Yes, feminism and queer politics do have a role and should have a role in steampunk.
Because politics are about people and who has power. And why. And how.
And steampunk is about people too—how we relate to technology, how we try to deal with shifting systems of power that our current technology has granted us. Specifically, how people can come to grips with the fear and awe of our age by referring to past patterns in history.
Steampunk is a verb and it is happening now: it is doing, engaging, living, exploring, and fashioning new ethical relationships with technology and art and ourselves.
Feminism and queerness are both part of who I am, and, although these influences are not always visible or relevant to whatever I’m doing, it is impossible to say that they are never there. Both color how I understand the world, and my place in it. It is inevitable that these politics should have a place in steampunk, because I am in steampunk too and I cannot leave parts of myself behind in every space I go to.
The role of these politics is for other people to recognize that in order for us to envision a better world, we have to be able to challenge the flaws of our current one and not repeat the ones of the past.
Facebook had a wide range of dialogue, from the politically adamant to the adamantly disengaged.
Granted, tumblr is better known for intensive discussions and the infamous SJ crowd….I’ve made a record of likes & re-blogs, since I consider them a more passive, but still significant form of interaction as well as individual responses too.