Sunday Spotlight is a series where we profile individuals in the Young Mormon Feminists community to hear their stories and get to know them a little better through Q&A or their personal narratives. This week we talked with Mat.
Who are you and what are you up to?
My name is Mat Sillito and I am a second generation Mexican-Canadian-American. I’ve spent most of my life as a student, graduating recently with a BA in English with an emphasis in creative writing from UVU. I will be continuing to be a student in the fall, as I head to the U of U for a Master’s program in English, with an emphasis in Rhetoric and Composition.
What makes you a Mormon?
Being born into a Mormon family, I suppose. A tree doesn’t have much room to grow away from its roots. Although I don’t attend specifically to LDS liturgy, I find the cosmology and much of the doctrinal principles guide my thinking about spirituality and the divine. I don’t accept that the authoritative priesthood line within the LDS church has a monopoly on who can consider themselves Mormon.
What makes you a feminist?
One word: intersectionality. Given my heritage, my concerns are going to be first and foremost with racial issues, but my heritage is also one of poverty and mental illness. Understanding that there is a primary viewpoint that is assumed to be default, and that other views are not given credence or are outright discredited tends to lend much sense to the world. Privilege (although a dirty word in some circles) is real and quantifiable. We can observe it, analyze it, deconstruct it, and ultimately, try to build a better world with less of it. A world where all are given equal opportunities for happiness is a world worth striving for.
What makes you a Mormon feminist?
Mormonism taught me about the perfectability of humankind. It taught me that one doesn’t have to be satisfied with the knowledge and goodness of those that came before, that we can craft and re-craft the world to better represent the image of the divine. Because of Mormonism I believe in a perfect God, and that leaves me dissatisfied with systems that leave some of God’s creations being seen as less than others. To me, Mormonism is about uplifting the downtrodden, giving voice to the voiceless, seeking first to understand before seeking to be understood, and wanting the ultimate happiness of all God’s creations. I see feminism and Mormonism as both sharing those goals. I can’t make sense of feminism without believing that people can get better, do better, be kinder. And I can’t make sense of Mormonism without seeking to understand our ways of seeing the world that cause us to miss or outright deny the humanity of others. The doctrinal principles within Mormonism are soundly feminist, even if the policies of the institutionalized iteration of it aren’t always.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I’ll be looking for a doctoral program after this master’s. I find rhetoric and composition to be a very interesting field that allows for the interrogation of many of the systems that put so many at a disadvantage. I’d like to employ that critical discourse both on a theoretical, research level, as well as practically in the classroom. Ten years should be enough to put me long-term in a classroom, where I can continue my research as well as interact daily with students and hopefully change hearts and minds.
Any parting words for us?
Boyd K. Packer (and others) have said that intellectuals and feminists, and their ideas, are an enemy to the church and should be feared. I categorically refute this notion. All truth is compatible. We ought to seek knowledge from anywhere we can find it. I find much in academic theory and analysis that reinforces beliefs that are core to my understanding of Mormonism. Truth that uplifts, inspires, enriches, and edifies should not be discarded. Mormons who would discard the knowledge gained by “feminist theory” would do well to remember the 13th article of faith, and not be so quick to dismiss things which can help them understand their fellow people and see them as Christ sees them. Feminism helps us understand people we otherwise would not, and that, combined with a Christ-centered world view, helps us truly love all people. And that is a very worthwhile goal.