You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen. Comet and Cupid and Donner and Bitzen. But do you recall that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was a changemaker after all?
To get in the holiday spirit and spend time with my niece who pretty soon may not want to hangout with us at children’s musicals anymore, we went to the Stages production of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical. Watching Rudolph with my niece and partner Michael brought tears of joy, nostalgia, and frustration. My MOXIEmoment is realizing that like me, Rudolph is a changemaker. He stands up for himself and others.
Rudolph’s story is full of lessons. My partner, niece, and I came up with at least twenty. But I know you have a lot to do today, so I limited it to five lessons.
- It’s ok to be different. When Rudolph was born, Papa pointed out his shiny, red nose, and Mama said, “We will accept him as he is.” We know that’s not how the story goes, but in the end being a “misfit” is not only accepted, it saves the day! Rudolph saved Christmas with his shiny, bright nose in the fog, and Hermey pulled Bumble’s infected tooth which was causing him to be cranky and scary. How are you a “misfit?” How will you honor it rather than be ashamed of it?
- Turn your challenge into an opportunity. Social businesses like mine (Academy for Women’s Empowerment, SBC) are born from this concept. Turn your “difference” into your differentiator. Rudoph’s nose went down in history. It was his legacy. His differentiator. For me, my social question (challenge) transformed into a business (opportunity). The challenge I observed in my classroom and the world around me of girls and women shrinking turned into my life’s work. What is a challenge you’re facing right now? How can it be your differentiator? Your unique opportunity? And FYI, AWE turns ten this year.
- Be aware of sexism in beloved stories. Mama tells Papa that they will accept Rudolph as he is; she is ignored. Clarice likes Rudolph despite his red nose; her dad banishes her to her cave. Mrs Claus exists only to feed Santa, tailor his suit, and make sure he shows up on time for Christmas. The main characters are all male: Rudolph, Hermey, Santa, and Yukon. Even Bumble is a man. What do you notice about your favorite beloved stories? How will you change the narrative or have a conversation around how systems of oppression show up in our beloved stories? Caution: please be aware of the idea that, “It was written a long time ago…that’s why.” True: Rudoplph was written a long time ago. Still true: the expectation that women play supporting roles permeates American society and the world.
- Use your power to help others. When Rudolph, Yukon, and Hermey ask to stay on the Island of Misfit Toys, King Moonracer tells them that the island is not for humans. In his infinite wisdom, he instructs them to use their power to help others. Rudolph uses his connection to Santa to rescue the Misfit Toys just in time for Christmas.
Technology has improved greatly since 1964. We don’t have to wait a whole year to watch Rudolph-we can access Rudolph with one click of a button anytime, anywhere. With a few small tweaks, we could change the story to be empowering for boys AND girls without changing the essence of the story. Who is going to rewrite the story? How are you going to use your power to help others?
- Doing hard things with others make the impossible possible. Bumble has Clarice in his furry hand, Rudolph charges him and is knocked out. Yukon and Hermey join Rudolph and they outsmart Bumble. All live happily ever after. I was recently asked in an interview, “Who do you turn to for help?” At first, I drew a blank. As a solopreneur, it’s lonely; I don’t have a co-founder, employee, or investor to turn to. Then I asked myself, “How is it possible that I am putting even more women in power?” My advisory team. And you. Hard things are not meant to do alone.
Changing stories to be inclusive and empowering for all of us, will feel hard and bad to some. Disrupting systems of power will feel impossible. Who are your helpers? Who will stand up next to you when you stand up first? And who will you follow?
How will you use your power to be a changemaker in 2023? What do we do about stories from our childhood that perpetuate stereotypes? What lessons from Rudolph the Changemaker am I missing? Comment below!
In Love, Changemaking, and MOXIE, Kristi