Steampunk is an alternate historical fiction genre.
But what sort of genre. It asks the reader to go back to a simpler time, a natural time, a pure time. But it’s also a time that asks the reader to live in a world and time of women subservient to, and owned by, men. A time when slavery was acceptable, capitalism was still in the feudal stages, and the industrial revolution was beginning to enslave the few not yet shackled by wealthy Europeans. It thrives of a Wild West system typical of the U.S. background only. It stretches the culture when the sun truly never set in the British Empire. Colonization was not only acceptable or common practice, it was justified and moralized.
Granted, not all Steampunk actually takes place during the European Industrial Revolution or the Victorian Era. But, all Steampunk glorifies that time. It focuses on a time specific to European history. Even the language used and the dialect indulged by most characters and narrators of Steampunk are written in Old English hues.
Are there outliers? Of course. However, as in any scientific inquiry, pointing out outliers proves nothing. The overall, overwhelming tendency is toward a Eurocentric world devoid of sexual equality, economic stability, and social justice.
It’s easy to romanticize about times when you ignore the ugly that came with it. The older generations in the U.S. pine for the 1950’s…a simpler time when you didn’t have to lock your doors, school fights ended after a few manly punches, and women were pure. They ignore the nuclear explosion drills, race riots, shipping girls off to “live with their aunt” to abort a pregnancy that never happened, and those honorable fights typically ended in games of chicken in cars that killed both.
Don’t let romanticism cloud the reality of the world.