by Tara J. Hannah
Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2019
Paperback, 234 pages
Reviewed by Nancy Fitzgerald-Bellovary
I have always enjoyed reading personal narratives, particularly if someone is facing the same challenges in life that I have encountered. In the realm of religion, many of us have struggled to find the balance between reverence and an appreciation for our own worth, so it was with pleasure that I read the book Pink Sunglasses and Yoga Pants: 31 Reflections on Biblical Feminism by Tara J. Hannah. Hannah lets us into her life and her personal struggles with Christianity in 31 chapters of reflection and biblical analysis. She divides her book into four separate sections that lead us through her journey as a Christian and as a feminist.
The introduction provides the reader with a very good sense of the type of book they will be reading. The story of Hannah’s daughter’s need for glasses offers a great analogy for Hannah’s way of approaching Christianity. There is information in the Bible about the power available for women to claim, and Hannah explains that we just need to develop a better way of seeing it. Our lack of vision is a result of the patriarchy or “guydolotry” structure of the organized religion that many of us have practiced or are still practicing. The premise of the book is that the way in which the biblical narrative has been presented to us under this structure has tainted our views on how God views women. Once we know where to look with our new glasses, we will see that Jesus treated women and men equally. Pink Sunglasses and Yoga Pants is our guide on this journey.
The author begins each chapter with a quote from a famous woman. This helps bring context to the chapter, and also makes you feel proud of the women who have come before us. I enjoyed this reference to those great women. It is important to acknowledge the women in our history, and Hannah includes many famous sayings, which helps the reader honor them as well. You agree with their quotes and feel empowered to be more like them.
Each of the book’s four sections brings to light information from the Bible that empowers women. There is a natural flow between the sections: Power to Her, Body Language, Do the Bright Thing, and Your Future is so Bright. The author begins with her early childhood experiences and does a good job of entwining these experiences with relevant passages from the Bible. As a result of her reflections, you see these Bible stories in a new light. She says, “Looking closely at the Bible, I was shocked after many years of Bible reading (and Bible thumping) to discover Eve was misbranded. If we read the text literally, Adam was kicked out of the garden, not Eve” (p. 95). I have my own personal experience with hearing Eve being blamed for the downfall of mankind, so it was refreshing to see a new perspective on this.
The author’s narratives in Body Language are the most personal, as she shares her own sexual background of pain. I am fortunate that I have not had that sort of abuse background and so had a harder time relating to this section than the others. However, I believe many women who have had similar experiences will find her chronicle empowering. It is so helpful that she writes in this section not only about the bad experiences but also about her loving relationship with her husband.
Her experiences and the lessons she shares from the perspective of a certified yoga instructor were extremely meaningful to me. There is a sense that the author is now very much in tune with her own body. She functions for the reader as a good role model on how to be aware of and more comfortable with your physical presence. She then encourages us to take the power we hold out into the world in our other relationships.
The author explores women’s friendships, voices, and power within the church. As we try to fulfill all of our roles in life—employer, student, wife, mother, sister, friend, and so many more—we are often torn trying to be all things to all people. In this section, it is clear how closely the author relates to this struggle. “My greatest challenge in motherhood continues to be this deliberation at what cost of myself should I sacrifice for my children”(p. 239). I think this is a challenge to many women today as we strive to balance all the roles in our lives.
In the final section of Pink Sunglasses and Yoga Pants, Hannah encourages the reader to go out into the world and challenge the organizations and individuals that still strive to keep women in what they believe is their proper place. Hannah offers up a space for us to question our religious leaders and explore the biblical text on our own. We are then able to find our own voices and create change that will affect future generations.
Each of the 31 reflections has its own special message. In the introduction, the author encourages using the chapters as reflection, and I agree that this is a good way to approach this book. If read all at once, it can be hard to separate the chapters. I recommend reading this book, but taking it slowly. Spend a full 31 days to read it. Reading a chapter each day will allow you to use Hannah’s reflections as a way of reflecting on your own experiences. You get a sense that the author truly wants to improve the lives of women in their religious community, both their physical presence and how they are impacting the world. She wants to make a difference. Use this book as a way to find the strength to do the same.
Further reading: Read the CFT interview with author Tara J. Hannah on Janene Putman’s What She Says blog.