Saturday, June 30, 2012

What We're Saying When We Drop Bombs

Do you remember how it felt to see news reports from the Middle East after 9/11? While we were shocked and sad and heartbroken, there were videos of people in Afghanistan burning the American flag and cheering that the twin towers had fallen.

Do you remember how it felt to see news reports from Washington D.C. after the U.S. took out Osama bin Laden? Joyful Americans took to the streets dancing, laughing, and proudly singing the National Anthem.

Forever in my mind, I'll be saddened that the towers fell and relieved that Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat, but I can't help but see parallels between these two events. I suppose joy and anguish all depend on which side of the world you are on, because leaders in America speak of "Muslim extremists" while people in Iraq call U.S. leaders "Christian extremists." Whose right? Maybe we both are. Maybe we both aren't. Because aren't we all declaring war and asking for God's blessing? And does the country that God loves best always win the war?

Lately, I've seen a few American-made war movies and I think, "I wonder what would happen if the other side could tell their story." I'm well-aware of the American narrative, but what if a little kid in Vietnam had a couple million dollars like Stephen Spielberg. What kind of story would they tell?"

I don't like war. I don't want people to die. I don't wish for the pain and suffering that pervades a community long after the ammunition is gone. I hate that innocent people died on 9/11. I hate that innocent people continue to die in Iraq. I mourn lives that are lost, no matter what their country of origin.

When I was younger, I always pictured the United States as the "good guys" and everyone else as the "bad guys." It's this narcissism that perpetuates the belief that being American means never having to say you're sorry.  I've been thinking about war more and more since I've been reading Shane Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution. I love how creatively and compassionately he talks about Iraq war and love and peace. He made  several visits to Iraq after 9/11 and brought with him a fresh perspective that I doubt many Americans have to think about, including myself. 

Claiborne writes: "Looking back now, I am embarassed at how surprised I was to find friends and family in Baghdad. It was as if I thought Iraq was filled with Osama bin Ladens and Saddam Husseins, and not with families and children just like ours."(208)

He was also surprised to find so many Christians. He talked with an Iraqi minister who said: " "Yes, my friend, this is where it all began. This is the land of your ancestors. That is the Tigris river, and the Euphrates. Have you read about them?" I was floored by my ignorance and by the ancient roots of my faith. It is the land of my ancestors. Christianity was not invented in America. He went on to tell me that the church in the Middle East was deeply concerned about the church in the United States: "Many Americans are for this war. Many Christians." "

He talks about attending an Iraqi child's backyard birthday party with balloons and cakes and bombs dropping nearby: the tension obvious, the resilience palpable. The children nervously continued to play, the adults looked anxiously at the horizon, but they pressed on, because they had to. 

Claiborne came to a hospital in Iraq when he needed care and found bed after bed of children who had been injured or killed in the bombings: "I saw a little girl shaking in her bed, asking over and over, "What did I do to America? What did I do to America?" " And a doctor who asked Claiborne: "Why is your government doing this? Why did they bomb the children's ward? We will still take care of you even though you are American. We are all human beings." " If we don't see each other as fellow human beings with families and stories and hopes and dreams, it's easier to "other", to label, to criticize, to hate, and to bomb.

This idea is similar to what Clairborne writes about Timothy McVeigh, the worst domestic terrorist Americans have ever seen: "McVeigh served in the Army and returned horrified, crazy, dehumanized asking a lot of these same questions in his essays, "Do people think that government workers in Iraq are any less human than those in Oklahoma City? Do they think that Iraqis don't have families who will grieve and mourn the loss of their loved ones? Do people believe that the killing of foreigners is somehow different than the killing of Americans?" He bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City in hopes that complacent Americans could see what "collateral damage" looks like and cry out against bloodshed everywhere, even Iraq. Instead, the government that had trained him to kill, killed him, to teach the rest of us that it is wrong to kill." (261)

Every time we use military force to bring about changes in the world, we are teaching our children that while killing is wrong, it's okay if it's done because they hit you first. We perpetuate the myth that violence can be an instrument for good, which implies that we are always good and we are the ones who are allowed to use violence.

In my mind, the question isn't, "Who is right in war?" We can squabble for the next few centuries about who did this and who dropped that bomb. But what if the question wasn't who is right, but whose life is valued? Is an American life better or more valuable than an Iraqi's life? Have we gotten so trigger-happy, so convinced that our way is the only way, that we can justify killing fellow human beings because we've decided that we are superior?

Clairborne met a solider who had returned from Iraq deeply disturbed, he said, "I just risked my life for the American dream, and I am not even sure I believe in it anymore. And I am pretty sure that the world cannot afford it."

Friday, June 29, 2012


Some call them "bad-body thoughts" or "Bad Body Fever" (Hirschmann and Munter).
Some call it "The Voice" (Geneen Roth).
Some call it the Devil.
I call it Helga.

It's that voice within you that you've known for most of your life. It's the doubter. The critic. The self-hatred. Commonly, in women, it's the voice that tells you that who you are and what you look like is bad, fat, gross, disgusting, ugly, or just plain wrong.

In reading When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies (Hirschmann/Munter), I realized for possibly the first time something quite important: that the self-hatred I feel toward my physical body is really just a reflection of the self-hatred I feel toward who I am. "A bad body thought is never about your body...Bad Body Fever and all of its symptoms divert our attention from real concerns and anxieties" (33).

This is hard for me to believe and understand, because I really have spent a lot of time directing disgust and hatred toward specific body parts that I find unsatisfactory (mostly because I've bought into the lie that there is only one correctly-sized thigh...).But there must be some reason that even the most beautiful women in the world, suffer the same debilitating, self-hating thoughts about their bodies. Thin women and fat women in equal numbers loathe their bodies.  Jennifer Aniston and Gywneth Paltrow have "I'm so fat" days too, even though they fit perfectly our cultures model of the "perfect" body. Why? Because what we criticize about our bodies is actually a reflection of something greater.

Stick with me.

I know this might be bending your thinking (and it's challenging mine too). Hirschmann and Munter tell story after story of hundreds of seminars conducted all over the country about women who use their bodies as a way to take out their anger or pain about something else. Like Jill feeling "so big" and realizing it had nothing to do with her waistline and everything to do with her new promotion. Or Ann feeling "ugly" when really she had just lost her temper with the plumber and felt like her actions were ugly.

I tried this for myself by making a list of my bad body thoughts, of Helga's regular attacks, of the specific things I spend time criticizing: my grossly large thighs and my too-big overall size. And I realized that with 90% certainty my self-consciousness about being physically built larger than some people (men or women), and feeling like certain body parts are just too big, fits directly with what I was blogging about yesterday: the fear that I will be too much for people to handle.

That I will be too loud.
Too competitive.
Too strong.
That I will annoy someone.
That I will beat a boy at basketball and he'll feel bad about himself.
That I will be too opinionated.
That I will be to confident.
That I will be too much.
That I will shine.

I've never attacked any body part for being too small, because I've never felt that I had a problem acting too small. No, my struggle has always been feeling too large, thus, I regularly feel like somehow I am overstepping my bounds as a woman, as a wife, as a friend, as a human being. This makes sense.

Now the temptation might be to just change your body and your inner pain will change too. Not so. It is the clothes job to fit me, not my job to fit into the clothes. My body size need not change. I need not shrink so that I'll feel better about my place in the world. No, it means that I need to re-frame my thinking, accept the size of my body, and accept the size of my spirit. They go hand-in-hand.

My playing small does not serve the world.
I am meant to shine.
To liberate myself, to liberate others.
Thighs and all.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


I like to be liked.

I like to know that I'm in good company.
That I'm safe.
That I'm on the same page with the community I'm a part of.
I don't think this is an uncommon feeling.
We all like to feel that pleasant notion that we're appreciated.

I struggle when I know I am not liked.

I feel out-of-place.
That I'm unsafe. Paralyzed.
That I'm out-of-step and unwanted.
I don't think this is an uncommon feeling.
But I'm pretty sure that some people handle this better than I do.

I'm watching leadership happen here at camp. Nothing in my soul desires to be the director of a summer camp, especially the director of a camp that was handed over after two decades under a different (and dearly beloved) previous director. You can't win. Everything you do will come with opposition. All of your decisions make people uncomfortable. I struggle to watch my dear friend and husband lead at camp. There's no winning. I'm not even the head-honcho and I struggle knowing that these two people that I love dearly will make decisions that will upset people and it would be absolutely impossible for them to make everyone happy.

Since I was a little girl, people have joked that I should be the first female U.S. president. As a little kid, that seemed like a pretty fine idea: lead people, be on TV, solve the world's problems, travel. Sign me up. But now in my twenties, as I watch any political news channel, being a U.S. president seems like the most miserable job I can think of: the pressure, the lack of safety, the threats, the hatred, the arguments. No thank you.

Leadership is a tricky thing. We need leaders. We need people who will step up and do things. We need someone to say, "No, that's not okay," or "Yes, I will do that." We need brave people to be brace. And at the same time, leadership begs opposition. Because if you speak up loud enough or stand up tall enough, people will disagree, people will argue, you're suddenly an easy target. Ouch.

Ya know what makes you an easy target?
Being married to the new assistant director at camp.
Planning a wedding.
Being a student-teacher.
Writing a book.
Traveling outside your comfort zone.
Sharing a thought.
Just about everything.

My fear is that this dread of being unliked will keep me small. And tame. And quiet.
The exact opposite of everything I want to be.
The exact opposite of everything I am.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Yesterday's drive through the winding roads around Hayden Lake demanded some company from Crystal Davy, a wonderful singer/songwriter from back home in Lincoln. I gladly accepted the task of driving into town (which many people avoid because the 30 minute drive is only 12 miles away and has a whopping 98 turns). I took the errand mostly for time, space, and a designated task that I could focus on.

Because lately, if I don't have something to focus on--to do--I go into this weird dark cloud kind of state of mind. I start imagining that this not-ideal season in our lives, is really just what marriage is. That this is how it will always be. That this is it. And as my dear friend, Kylie, reminded me today, it's difficult to re-frame my thinking because this season is the only season our short 1 month of marriage has ever known. If I don't catch myself, I start imagining that our marriage will always be a collection of just passing comments at lunch time and brushing our teeth together in the morning. The other night, I was struggling to articulate these feelings to Jeremy and he sincerely and gently said, "Bo, I'm worried about you." And I said, "Me too."

So the song "Mercy" by Crystal Davy was relished about 6 times on my drive into town. The words just felt right. We're all crying for mercy in one way or another.

God of all the big and small things
Hear our cry for mercy
Darkness, sorrow flee before You
Hear our cry for mercy

Love of Heaven, here incarnate
Can the dust sing out Your praise?

Hear our cry for mercy
Hear our cry for mercy
Hear our cry for mercy

You have given all we’ve needed
You put strength into our bones
You have taken, You have weakened
You made hunger grip our souls

Father, Father, daily bread give
You’d not offer us a stone
You’d not offer us a stone
Hear our cry for mercy

My wise-mind knows that the last three years we've spent working, talking, and learning how to love each other do not simply disappear in a month.

My heart knows that it has endured discomfort before and will endure it again.

My body knows that this ache won't kill me.

My spirit knows that everything will be all right in the end and if it's not all right, it's not the end.

Pema Chodron says that our pain, our discomfort, our scraped knees, and our heartache are what connects us with the rest of the world. We are not only a smiling string of human beings holding hands around the perimeter of the world, most of us spend a lot of time in discomfort and stress, crying out for mercy. This discomfort--this season that I am learning about myself, about marriage, and about adulthood--is what links me to the rest of the world that endures human pain. Just. Like. Me. And that somehow makes me feel a little bit better. 

Hear our cry for mercy.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


There is something about familiarity.
A safe embrace.
A favorite couch.
Dad's waffles.
The faces of friends.
Lived-in jeans.
Sleeping in until 9:30am in your own bed.
A road traveled many times that always leads home.

There is also something about the unknown.
The thrill.
The newness.
The adventure.
Meeting new people.
Trying something for the first time.
Visiting places that you've never seen before.
Waking up groggy at 5:45am and taking on the day.
Breaking tradition.
Taking a path you've never taken that could lead far from home.

There is something about familiarity.
And there is something about the unknown.
Both important.
Both necessary.
One gives comfort.
The other gives adventure.
One requires letting go.
The other requires bravery.
One enables warmth and sinking-in.
The other enables energy and thrill.

A life of familiarity is a life unlived.
A life of unknowns is a life of stress.
We need both.
I need both.

This season finds me living more in the unknown than the familiar.
My gut urges, "Run away! It's too hard. This is uncomfortable."
My heart encourages, "This is exactly what you need. You can do this."

So today, I am grateful for the unknown. I am grateful for everything that isn't clear to me. I am pushed and challenged by this season of change and newness. I am blessed by the gifts of both familiarity and the unknown.

I want to thrive here.

I can thrive here.

Friday, June 22, 2012

This Season

When I stop and think about it, summer camp is a really odd place. 

It's an intriguing conglomeration of people and ideas, all squished together in tight quarters for a few months with sometimes nothing in common other than the desire to work at summer camp.

I've been put in charge of other people's off spring. I'll never meet the parents. Never have a discussion. Just a brief, one week interaction with dozens of random kids I'll probably never see again.  

In the last two weeks, I have personally met and introduced myself to about 200 people (about half of which whose names I can remember). Most of that number is summer camp staff, but I've interacted with a lot of kids too.

Onstage, I've played a fashion model from Paris, a girl named Kat, an Olympic newscaster, and a little kid learning to wake board.

I have shared meals, ideas, spoons, and pretty intense volleyball games with people I hardly know.

I have cooked in the kitchen, served meals, MC'd a ski show, cleaned bathrooms, played piano, life guarded, watched kiddos blob, taught yoga and Zumba, sang silly songs, done office work, taken kids to the nurse, subbed for cabins, and played dodge ball in the mud.

I've put on this role of "summer camp staff" again for the fourth time. And I'm not quick to forget that it's a unique experience. If offers a diverse landscape of experiences and opportunities and people that are hard to find in one place for such a temporary period of time.

It really is weird.

Sociologically, you're matched up with people you might never want to interact with otherwise, but you do it anyway.

Psychologically, you're expected to buy in to what the camp's selling and be excited about it.

Spiritually, you're somewhat on display.

Mentally, you're trying to juggle your "normal" life with "camp" life and "school" life and on and on.

Physically, you're beat. You're lacking sleep. You're eating food you're not used to. But you do it any way.


Is it really for the kids?

I can answer this question easily: no. Personally, I know that the most important reason I come to work at camp is not for the kids. Maybe it should be. 

But I work at camp to remind me that I am young.
I work at camp because I get to play sports every day.
I work at camp because Jeremy loves camp.
I work at camp because it's fun.
I work at camp because it's exhausting.
I work at camp because I always learn so much about myself and others.

Yeah, kids kinda drive me crazy. I'm working on that. And when I say "I'm working on that" what I really mean is: I'll like them when they're 19. Kids are illogical and dramatic, just like we all were at that age. And still, even though my hypothesis about kids has remained mostly unchanged in the four years I've worked at camp, I understand them and can relate to them better than I could before summer camp. If we ever have kids, they'll be grateful for that.

We've only just begun our adventure this summer. The oddness of camp continues. I'll spend a boat-load of time with people whose names I won't be able to recall two years from now. I'll wear several hats. I'll be lonely at times and overjoyed at others. This is a season in our lives. And if I work it right, I will look back years from now and say, "Ya know what, that summer was important. It taught me..."

I'm embracing this season.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Being here at camp has been much harder than I thought it would be. The last several nights, Jeremy has had to work well past 1am and we just see each other in passing a few times during the day. This is not ideal. This is hard. This hurts. I miss him. And it's hard being here as a newly married couple and not seeing him much.

This morning got off to a rough start. We didn't get much sleep, we didn't see each other much the day before, and we had early morning staff worship. We were cranky and impatient with each other trying to get out the door on time. Then we were late. I could hardly keep my eyes open and was feeling overall crummy about the day ahead. So, I called my dear friend, Kylie.

Forty-three minutes later, I recognized that the best thing about a good friend is, when you say, "This hurts", and they say, "I'm so sorry. It's okay to feel that." That's all. That's usually all we need. For someone to remind us that it's okay to feel what we are feeling. It's okay to be what we are being.

And I cried because it felt good to cry. To acknowledge that this is hard and that's okay. We may not have easy answers or solutions, but we have concern and compassion and prayer. Telling Kylie about the ins-and-outs of camp reminded me that there are some really hard things about camp and some really stellar things about camp. I want to focus on the stellar.

So, here are some stellar things about our lives here at camp:
Jeremy and I have come on an adventure!
I am living in Idaho, a new place I've never been before.
The towns nearby have banks, restaurants, and shopping for our days off.
The weather is not grossly hot or insanely humid.
The camp is in a beautiful location right on the lake.
We have a sand volleyball court and we'll get to have staff tournaments.
I have the opportunity to try blobbing, sailing, and rock running (all things I've never done before).
I am now certified to teach swim lessons, skin diving, and canoeing.
I've been asked to teach a "cardio" (Zumba) class and a "stretching" (yoga) class for the staff.
I've been asked to be the MC for the ski show and speak for a few things. 
I did know at least a few people before I came here.
The new people I've met are nice and fun to be around.
We don't have to pay for rent or food all summer.
Someone else does all the staff laundry.
We don't have to spend much on gas money this summer.
Jeremy and I have one of the nicest rooms on the property.
We have a great view of the lake.
Being married means we have a tad bit more license to make our own decisions. 
I don't have to be a counselor anymore.
I don't have to live in cramped quarters with several staff.
I have internet privileges because of my job.
I have my own space to do the desk work I need to do.
I am welcome to use the kitchen to make gluten-free food.
We have a place to sleep, food to eat, and money in our pockets.
We are healthy, have no terminal illnesses, or diseases.
We have full use of our arms, legs, eyes, ears, and bodies to play and learn.
We have people in our lives who love and support us.
I am married to my best friend.
I am alive and well.

As Sylvia Boorstein advises in rough spots, I am reminding myself daily: "Sweetheart, you're in pain. Relax, take a breath. Let's pay attention to what's happening here and then together we'll find a way."

May I not just react.
May I live with ease.
May I feel safe.
May I feel content.
May I feel strong.
May I see the stellar.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

For Now

 This summer, Jeremy and I are working at Camp Mivoden. It's a new place for us and we're figuring things out slowly. Welcome to our world and our home for the next three months.

This is the waterfront area. There are picnic tables, shade, a sandy beach, a volleyball court, and the dock. 

 This is looking out at the lovely Hayden Lake. 
 This is the cafeteria with big windows that overlooks the lake.
 This is the indoor pool which has sliding glass doors that open out onto the lake.
 This is my office.
You'd be so much more impressed with the inside of my office (a.k.a. janitor's closet), if you could've seen it before I whipped it into shape. It was a mess. Now, it's liveable. This is where I'll be doing all the ACA (American Camping Association) accrediting work for the camp. 
These are the dorms. They stand in a line four stories tall.

                You have to up these crazy, winding stairs to get to the fourth floor where we live.
           This is the top floor and from here you can see across to the top level of the other cabins.
                              This is our view out our front door. Not much to complain about.
                                                               This is our room.

It's strange being married at camp. It feels like we're just pretending, like we're just playing house. We've navigated who makes the bed and where to put our toothbrushes. But suddenly, I feel like we are seen differently. We're the married couple. And I don't blame anyone. I can't say that I've ever reached out to the married people I've worked with at camp. I think I just assumed that they wouldn't be interested in the silly things us single people did. But now, we are those people. It's like because we've been married for...oh...a month, we are now the resident experts on marriage. Nuh uh.

Today we get our first batch of campers: energetic, stoked 8-10 year olds. We've cleaned the camp, checked our areas for safety, verified teaching skills, prepared the menu, mowed the lawns, moved this and re-arranged that. Whew. I'm hoping that with the introduction of "regular" weeks of camp, life will gain some normalcy and we'll feel like we can catch our breath.

Many people ask us, "Where will you go after camp?" I wish I had an answer to that question. When I told a co-worker this, she said, "Oh no, don't wish for that. My husband and I often wish we could just up and go like we used to, but we're a bit tied down by kids and a mortgage. Don't wish for a plan. Enjoy the unknown."

For now, we are young and newly married.

For now, we are working at summer camp.
For now, much is unknown and that's okay.
We can either be traumatized by it or we can embrace the thrill.
For now, this is home.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dear Child

Dear Child,

Welcome back to camp life. You've done this before. Remember the long days and the early mornings? Remember the energy of kiddos and the drain of repetition? Yeah, you do. Because you've been here before. Don't be surprised. Welcome back.

I know you've been feeling fragile, unsure, cautious. You're in a new place with new people. You don't  feel stable or secure. This feeling of discomfort? This feeling connects you to the other 80% of the world that is probably feeling much the same way. You're not alone. You're actually in the majority. Take heart knowing that there are more people feeling the exact same way than less.

Helga's been sneaking back in. But you're not surprised are you? She always rears her ugly head when you're feeling vulnerable. We've been here before.
You feel crummy, Helga takes one step forward.
You feel insecure, Helga starts whispering.
You feel worthless, Helga's moved in.

She's a jerk. But she need not win. Keep Helga out of the picture where she belongs. Remember, you are perfect. You are loved. You are good.

It's okay to feel slow.
It's okay to feel unexcited.
It's okay to feel sad.
It's okay to feel lonely.
Whatever you're feeling, it's okay.

You are good.
You are loved.
You are funny.
You are kind.
You are spirited.
You are inspiring.
You are wise.

You can do this.
You are doing this.

Carry on.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

One Month Anniversary

Jeremy and I have been married for one month. I'm not sure how that all happened, but by looking at the calendar, I know that somehow it did.

When I told non-camp people that Jeremy and I would be working at camp this summer, many of them said, "Oh great, it'll be like an extended honeymoon!" To which I replied, "You've obviously never worked at camp."

So a few months ago, I called the camp director and asked her if getting married and coming straight to camp was a bad idea, if we were just asking for trouble, if it would be too much. I felt assured by her that it would be okay. I still feel that way: it will be okay. But right now, it doesn't feel okay.

It doesn't really feel like we're married. It just feels like we suddenly gained sleeping privileges in the same bed at the end of long days. He's super busy as the assistant director and camp life is just plain crazy for both of us. I feel lonely. I miss him. I don't know many people here. I come back to our apartment at the end of the day and sometimes I'm asleep before he gets back and he leaves before I wake up. This isn't exactly what I was expecting of our first month of marriage; of what will be the first few months of marriage.

We've both worked at camp for several summers. I know how this goes. I knew we'd be busy. But being in a brand-spankin' new environment where we know pretty much no one, has been an added struggle and it's been hard not to at least have him--my best friend--at the end of the day.

Had we stayed home for the summer or gone back to the camp we were at before, so many people would say, "Oh wow! You're married now! That's crazy," and "Show us pictures!" or "Tell us about the wedding." But no one says that here. Why would they? They don't know us and we don't know them. I'm not expecting strangers to have that kind of enthusiasm. I guess, I just need to accept that by choosing to come here, the honeymoon stage has worn off a bit faster than I wanted.

Oh, expectations. Dangerous things...

So, it is what it is.

This week is busier, not every week will be this way.

Settling into our roles will take time and the learning curve is steep.There will be a plateau.

We'll have time apart. We'll cherish time together.

I can be happy for the time we do get together. Rolling my eyes is choice. And it only makes him feel worse for having to work another late night (something he has no control over).

I can make new friends. Even if my 24 years feel ancient compared to 90% of the staff.

I can be patient.
I can wait for peace and perspective.
Because they will come.
Because they always do.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Kick in the Shins

When I was a kid, I kicked boys in the shins if they told me I couldn't do something because I was a girl.

Yesterday, I had an equally childish response when Jeremy made a crack about my biceps being smaller than his because my arms were only needed in the kitchen. His shins were spared, but I had a direct flashback to every other time someone made a joke about women and I got a bit fiery.

If I had to pick one topic that never fails to make me angry, even since I was a little girl,
it is sexism:

1. prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially : discrimination against women
2. behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex

Now, I understand that sexism isn't always limited to men discriminating against women. Calling men "pigs" isn't fair nor kind either. Calling all men anything is limiting and nonsensical, as indeed, all men are not created equal. I want to honor and appreciate men for they are as individuals, not based on ridiculous media-educated stereotypes.

Most of the sexism I see and experience is against women. Yesterday, I spent some time thinking about what irked me so much about Jeremy's "women in the kitchen" joke. I realized that it isn't as much about the joke as it is about a culture that allows these attitudes to be laughable.

Jokes making fun of women are still sexist.
Jokes making fun of a certain race are still racist.

Why do people hide behind the word "joke" as if that makes every other horrible thing they are saying okay?
In my mind, it's never "just a joke." We only joke about things that we've learned to justify as laughable.

It's not women who are cracking rape jokes. By and large (from what I've found on entire websites dedicated to rape jokes) it's men.

It's not often minority groups who are making racist jokes, it's the majority group. It's the group who wants
to maintain their power and they do so by diminishing the value of the latter.

There's a reason we make jokes about the things we do: time and context. Nobody was making jokes about September 11th on September 12th. Why? Because it's not okay. Because any reasonable human being could feel the pain and no better than to crack a joke about such a sensitive subject. Yet, time and context are everything. If we remove ourselves from it, it's less familiar to us and easier to laugh at.

We can only justify laughing and joking about someone if we've decided that either their plight isn't important or somehow they are less important than ourselves. 

Sexist jokes bother me because they only encourage a society that says belittling women is okay. And funny. 

You can justify gang raping a woman, beating your wife, selling a six year-old girl into sex slavery, and cutting out her genitals if you have first decided that she is less valuable as a human being than you are. And what better way to encourage that sexism is okay (and laughable) than cracking jokes about the reality that women (and good men) have spent centuries trying to change and improve?

Sexist jokes are little debilitating reminders that women are only taken half-seriously. Half-valued. Half-as important.

Sometimes when I'm talking about this with men, they'll say, "Oh, you're so cute when you're angry." It feels condescending. It feels like I'm not even allowed to be angry, because anger is not an "acceptable" or "attractive" emotion for women to have (just like men are not taught how to be sad). So men can be angry and women can be sad, but rarely are they taught that it's okay to be both.

Kicking boys in the shins hasn't gained me much but a few slaps on the wrist. Raising my voice and level of frustration with sexist people hasn't helped much either. And when I get angry (even in a productive and healthy way), I'm told that it's "cute" and I feel like that helpless and frustrated eight year-old girl who wasn't allowed to play football all over again.

I haven't found a great solution yet. Sexism and, even worse, misogyny, are big problems that will take decades to revers, but a few things help to keep me from kicking people:
-I don't laugh at sexist jokes (or racist jokes, or any jokes that are belittling of other people).
-When someone makes a sexist comment (about men or women), I tell them that's not okay.
-I don't adhere to gender-stereotypes that put people in boxes and tell them what they "should" be.
-When someone says, "You guys", I tell them I'm not a guy. 
-I encourage girls to play sports, to be active, to get dirty.
-I encourage boys to feel, to cry, to be whatever they want to be.

I play sports, I cook.
I lift weights, I clean.
I get angry, I cry.
I wear tennis shoes, I wear dresses.
I'm logical, I'm emotional.
I'm a leader, I'm an observer.
I speak, I listen.
I allow myself an identity that enables a fully human experience, instead of only a gendered one.