My interview with a holiday icon

It’s December, and time for our holiday-themed Sex in the Suburbs article.

This year, I reached out to someone near and dear, and who happens to be the only female member of an otherwise all-male team at work.

Santa’s reindeer Vixen was kind enough to make time for a short interview during her training season. I caught up with her outside of the CRTF (Christmas Reindeer Training Facility). She spoke with me on the condition that the location of the facility remain undisclosed.

Me: Vixen, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy training schedule to speak with me.

Vixen: I feel it’s so important for me to speak out as a strong female role model, especially right now.

Me: Indeed. What has it been like for you as the sole female member of Santa’s reindeer team?

Vixen: Our work environment is fairly healthy. Part of Santa’s mission throughout history has been to be aware of issues affecting everyone. I appreciate the team spirit that comes with being one of Santa’s reindeer — I appreciate that I can go to Santa at any time with information or concerns.

Me: What sort of concerns have you had?

Vixen: Once, a long time ago, a colleague had a little too much spiked spruce at the after-Christmas party and made some lewd remarks. I told myself, “This isn’t a big deal. He seems like a good guy. He’s inebriated.” It bugged me though, so I told a friend. She said, “Are you sure he said that?” Folks just don’t want to believe this kind of thing actually happens to someone they know. The next week, this buck said more derogatory things about female reindeer, and parts of my anatomy in particular. I told him I didn’t appreciate the remarks and that they were disrespectful. He laughed and said I wasn’t being a team player, and he was going to make sure everyone else knew that. That’s when I went to Santa.

Me: What happened?

Vixen: Santa took my concerns very seriously and looked into the matter thoroughly and professionally. Eventually, that buck was asked to leave. He didn’t understand how disrespectful he was being and how it was damaging our entire team.

Me: Wow.

Vixen: It was sad because, otherwise, he was great at his job. But we have to work closely together, and millions of children are depending on our teamwork — there’s just not room for harassment. And Santa won’t tolerate it.

Me: How did the other reindeer respond?

Vixen: They know it’s challenging to grow up in a male-dominated reindeer culture — lots of pressure to be competitive, act like stuff doesn’t bother you, etc. They also know what an honor it is to be chosen to pull Santa’s sleigh, however, so they knew it was important for us all to have sincere respect for each other so we can all do our best.

Me: I think you were lucky.

Vixen: Yes. I know of other female reindeer who endure all kinds of ridiculousness.

Me: Such as?

Vixen: Oh, the usual. “Hey, baby! Those antlers look like they need a male to scratch them.” Accusing the female reindeer of being distracting at work when she’s shedding in spring — that kind of thing. My friend had a colleague tell her that if she wanted to get a promotion, she had better go out with him.

Me: How can your experience help others?

Vixen: If there’s one piece of advice I can give young female reindeer — or any female, really — it’s this: You are worth standing up for. Stay strong, find support, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s your fault if you are harassed.

Me: Vixen, thank you so much for taking time to speak with me, especially at such a busy time of year.

Vixen: My pleasure.

Where you can get support if you are sexually harassed or assaulted:

• RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network)

800-656-HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org

www.rainn.org/articles/sexual-harassment

• Legal Voice — Information and attorney referrals in Washington

Office: (206) 682-9552

Info line: (206) 621-7691

• King County Sexual Assault Resource Center

www.kcsarc.org

888-99-VOICE (888-998-6423) 24 hours

• If it happens in school, go here to read about the Federal Way Public Schools procedures for reporting harassment and bullying: fwps.org/Page/601.

Amy Johnson, MSW, is a trainer and educator in the Pacific Northwest. She specializes in sexuality education and in promoting safe and healthy sexuality culture in faith communities. All opinions are her own. She can be reached at comments@diligentjoy.com.

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