There are many wonderful things I like about steampunk. And I’m not just referring to the incredible amount of creativity that seems to flow from every pore of every member of this community. Since discovering it for myself in 2013, I’ve always considered it a home from home. That is; somewhere that I feel safe enough to be myself (a little bit weird) and not worry about being called something, frowned upon or ridiculed. The same can be said for many people in the culture. In steampunk we can express our creativity and dress up as fantastical characters and people will not only accept us for who we are, but will positively encourage it. What a fantastic environment that some people can only dream of. We’re so lucky.
That is, until it goes wrong.
Sometimes tarnish is seen under the Brasso‘d veneer. Today was one such day.
One of my favourite steampunk pages on Facebook is Steampunk Revolution. I like it because of the friendly, easy going admin, their attitude towards the concept of steampunk, the reasonably large number of members and the fact that it never seems to scroll past too quickly. Today, though, a video was uploaded of a viral ad campaign for a company that has begun producing beard jewellery.
The video was uploaded with a simple question asking for thoughts. Beard jewellery has been around for a long time and I’ve personally seen an increase in it’s use on the UK steampunk scene over the past 12 months at least. I suspect it’s been going longer and the actual decoration of beards is a centuries old tradition. So the company that have marketed them as a new idea isn’t going to get very far with that. I dipped into the comments. The first comment was simply “No”. Which is fair enough, though I was a little dismayed to see that the original poster (OP) had replied with “Exactly!” It was clear that the post had been made with the intention of highlighting it for ridicule. I think their reason for sharing it to Steampunk Rev’ was due to the fact that it originated on a steampunk shop page called Steampunk Glory. It looks like they’d taken it from a page called “In The Know” which is run by AOL.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not naive. I realise that the page has many different people from many different backgrounds but what seems to be forgotten is that steampunk also has that. It’s a community that welcomes EVERYONE. That includes male models that pose in viral ad campaigns with jewels in their beards or anyone else that wants to wear a jewel in their beard. The point is that whether people want to do this or not isn’t for anyone in this community to decide what’s right or wrong. Just like steampunk is a completely personal experience, so is wearing whatever jewellery you want. How can anyone say that this looks stupid but a nose piercing doesn’t? Neither do. If you want to wear them, then go right ahead and I’ll welcome you into the community.
By far the worst was the single word response of “Gay”. For some reason, even though we’re living in the 21st century, “gay” is still in use as derogatory terminology. The fact that it’s been used on a page that supports people and provides a safe haven of friendship for those who will have been victimised just for being gay is frankly appalling. I actually didn’t think that anyone like that existed in the community. Now it could be that they’re not active in the steampunk culture or maybe new to it and they simply follow the page and wanted to comment. If so, I really hope they read this. Because it’s not ok to use phrases like that as insults. Steampunk accepts everyone and there are people who are going to read that who will have had it thrown at them all their lives. They come to steampunk to escape that kind of intolerance, so we need to keep it away. If you didn’t like the video or the model or his wink – which, incidentally, will have been instructed to him to do by the Director so doesn’t really make him a prat – then that’s ok and you’re free to say you don’t like it. But the video was put there with the sole purpose of being ridiculed and it was taken over the line.
That’s not what steampunk is about.
For the record, this isn’t any fault of the Steampunk Revolution page or the admin who do a fantastic job of running it.