Sunday Spotlight is a series where we profile individuals in the Young Mormon Feminists community to hear their story and get to know them a little better through Q&A or their personal narrative. This week we talked with Macrae McDermott
Who are you and what are you up to?
My name is Macrae McDermott. I am 26 years old and currently live in Las Vegas, Nevada.
I moved a lot when I was growing up and have carried this trend into adulthood. Prior to Vegas, I lived in San Francisco, Atlanta, East London (South Africa), Paris, Singapore, Memphis, Nashville, and beyond.
I am currently the Social Media Strategist for an amazing NY-based nonprofit called 100cameras. I also work for m.o. Partners, a San Francisco-based company which has done consulting work for organizations such as Grameen Bank and Slavery Footprint.
I graduated from BYU in 2010 with my BS in Sociology and minors in Political Science and African Studies.
Tell us more about your experience at BYU.
To this day, I am continuously asked how “someone like me” could “survive” BYU. Usually I shrug it off, laugh, and say that I found “my people.” It has recently hit me how true this response actually is.
Growing up, I always saw myself going to school at some urban, liberal arts college, studying art, music, and foreign affairs. I imagined myself constantly involved in protests and sit-ins—making the world a better place one student-driven uprising at a time.
Instead, I ended up at BYU, suburban Utah at its finest. And in a way, it fit me better than any other school could have.
I found people who were more similar to me than I ever could have imagined. From Students for International Development (SID) to BYU Democrats, Field Studies to Sociology, I found individuals who seemed to be fueled by many of the same passions as myself. Most of us were Mormon, but we were more than that. And it was those other similarities that brought us together.
Now, while I don’t have the luxury of having a sea of Mormons around me, through which I can sift to find kindred spirits, I love finding groups such as Young Mormon Feminists to find those individuals who embrace the world as I do.
What makes you a feminist?
I am the oldest of five children, followed by a brother and three sisters. That’s a lot of girls in one house, a lot of girls who have turned into incredibly strong women. I think I can attribute this largely to the example of my mother.
My parents married in their mid-twenties. My mom had graduated from college, served a mission, and was working as an editor before they tied the knot. Even after they married and started having kids, she continued to work.
My dad was gone a lot for his job, often for weeks at a time, and it was mom and the kids, left to their own devices. As a little cohort of six, we accomplished amazing things. My mom wielded a wet-saw so she could tile the front entryway. We could move furniture faster and more efficiently than a moving company. We worked together to strip wallpaper, squish bugs, and change light bulbs. We learned musical instruments, cooked, and did yard work.
“Traditional,” 1950s-esque gender-based tasks had no place in our home. Things that needed to be done were done.
I have carried this way of thinking with me throughout my life. When things need to be done, I will do my best to get them done. Now don’t get me wrong, there are things I can’t do. I can’t rewire a light fixture. I can’t crack an egg with one hand. I can’t do a handstand. I can’t do a lot of things. But none of these are as a result of my being a woman.
I am capable of doing amazing things because I am a human being, with a brain, and a heart, and a soul. I am a feminist because I believe that each of us has the capacity within us to do amazing things. Female. Male. Transgender. We are all capable of greatness.
What makes you a Mormon?
I often think of Mormonism as a complex spectrum. It would be easier to just say, “Yes, I am,” or “No, I’m not.” But for me, it’s more complicated than that.
I grew up in a Mormon family. Went through Primary and Young Women’s. I graduated from BYU, have been in more singles’ wards than I can count, and am currently hanging out in yet another here in Las Vegas.
As a kid I had this idea of being all in or all out. I felt like I needed to figure everything out and was determined to avoid being a “fence sitter” at all costs. Over the last couple of years however, I have decided that there is something beautiful about sitting up on a fence. I feel as if I get to see the good on both sides.
I find comfort and peace in many of the teachings of the church. I believe that the teachings on love and respect are beautiful and inspiring. I believe that as people we have the ability to change and grow. I believe that we are here on earth to find joy and strength in one another, as well as from within ourselves.
I also believe that the church has made mistakes. I believe that there are mistakes made every day, but that the members of the church have the potential to create an increasingly tolerant and loving environment.
I like to think of myself as a potluck Mormon. There are a lot of great things in Mormondom, but there are also a lot of amazing things elsewhere, and I’m going to bring those to the party. I believe that we all have the right to learn and explore for ourselves.
Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
I don’t know where I’ll be ten years from now. I like to think I’ll be living in some amazing city (preferably NYC or SF), working a job that inspires and challenges me. I would love to earn another degree. I would love to be finding joy in every step of this crazy journey of life.
Any parting words for us?
I hope that you will find your own passions in life. Instead of spending time looking to the left and right, waiting for external approval, I hope we can each march bravely forward. I hope we can make our choices, allow our experiences to guide us, and find confidence in our own selves.