Photo of woman with facial hair leads to conversation, understanding
Balpreet Kaur responded to the reddit conversation about her facial hair.
September 27th, 2012
02:53 PM ET

Photo of woman with facial hair leads to conversation, understanding

By Stephanie Gallman, CNN

(CNN) - A picture of a woman with facial hair wearing a turban posted to the social media site Reddit has garnered a firestorm of Internet reaction and has taught at least two Ohio college students lessons in graciousness, humanities and religious studies.

The picture was posted five days ago with the caption, "I'm not sure what to conclude from this."

A 20-year old college student, who asked to remain anonymous, says one of his friends took the photo at a library at The Ohio State University.

He's "not really sure why," but after he and his friends shared the picture amongst themselves, he posted it to Reddit.

"It was out of the ordinary," he said. "It's not something that you see everyday. I was thinking about it more as a picture, not about the people in the pictures."

For several days after it was posted, the picture elicited responses from those who teased to those who were disgusted with the post.

Some blasted the person who posted it online, defending the unnamed woman.

"This post is in poor taste," one commenter said.

"What you should conclude from this is that it's not ok to take photos of strangers and post them on the internet without permission," said another.

"Don't do this. Don't take pictures of people you think look weird and post them online," another chimed in.

Some commenters chose to joke with posts like, "Beards on women are now in!!! yes!!!"

"So is this a transgendered Sikh? Explains why they haven't shaved and the Turban. One of those things has got to go," commented one Reddit user.

One person said, "It's Pat," referring to the Saturday Night Live character whose gender was always a mystery.

The woman in the photo is Balpreet Kaur, a neuroscience and psychology student at Ohio State. After a friend contacted her on Facebook and told her about the picture, she responded to the post on Reddit.

"If the OP wanted a picture, they could have just asked and I could have smiled," she wrote.

"Yes, I'm a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair," she wrote. "Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body - it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being."

Kaur said her religion believes in focusing on actions instead of the physical beauty.

"I'm not embarrassed or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positive] that this picture is getting because it's who I am," she wrote.

She encourages anyone who sees her on campus to "come up and say hello," and notes that it's not her face that's important, but the smile and happiness that lie behind it.

"My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognized that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it?"

Her response led to more discussion on Reddit.

"Just want to thank Balpreet Kaur for serving as an example to me of the best way to deal with hostility and ignorance. Thank you, Balpreet, you are beautiful."

"I wish I could hug this woman. She makes my heart happy."

"As a hirsute woman, I one day hope to have the peace and acceptance of my body that you do. You are a true inspiration, and I thank you for replying to this thread."

The original poster returned to Reddit to apologize to Kaur and anyone he might have offended.

"I felt the need to apologize to the Sikhs, to Balpreet, and anyone else I offended when I posted that picture," he wrote.

He said he has reached out to Kaur and calls her an "incredible person." The next time he is in Columbus, the two plan to meet.

"I've read more about the Sikh faith, and it was actually really interesting," he said. "It makes a whole lot of sense to work on having a legacy and not worrying about what you look like.

Kaur, who works closely with Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that empowers college students to be interfaith leaders, released a statement through the organization saying she accepts the original poster's "sincere apology." 

"I'm glad this situation has been positive and inspiring for many people," she said, "We need to cherish those moments that allow us to feel bigger than our own bodies," she said. 

Interfaith Core President Eboo Patel said, "By responding to a moment of religious prejudice with grace, Balpreet taught hundreds of thousands of people about her Sikh tradition and showed them that religion can be a source of strength and bridge of cooperation."

Perhaps no one learned more than the original poster of the photograph. 

"I hate using clichés, but I've definitely learned to not judge a book by its cover," he said. "Some of the people who may not be the most beautiful on the outside are beautiful on the inside."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: gender issues • Sikh

soundoff (1,032 Responses)
  1. Hana Poehlein

    Gynecomastia is caused by excessive estrogen actions and is often the result of an increased ratio of estrogen to androgen. In approximately 25% of cases, the cause of gynecomastia is unknown.:..,;

    Have fun

    June 21, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
  2. Erin Mcaferty

    Generally, hair loss in patches signifies alopecia areata. Alopecia areata typically presents with sudden hair loss causing patches to appear on the scalp or other areas of the body. If left untreated, or if the disease does not respond to treatment, complete baldness can result in the affected area, which is referred to as alopecia totalis. When the entire body suffers from complete hair loss, it is referred to as alopecia universalis. It is similar to the effects that occur with chemotherapy."^

    Have a good one

    May 13, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
  3. Shawn

    "Some of the people who may not be the most beautiful on the outside are beautiful on the inside.”
    I really dislike how they said that, even with the hair I see a beautiful woman.

    May 10, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
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    April 9, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
  6. bob

    Dear god what is that thing!

    October 26, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  7. T. Storm

    I am a female & have facial hair. Mostly a mustachio & a few chin hairs. For me, it is genetic. My grandmother had it, & a couple of my aunts had it. I don't really worry about it & don't give 2 hoots what anyone thinks of it. I also wear my hair very short. I've gottn so used to being called "sir", I don't even miss a beat when it happens.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  8. Jeremy

    Hey, to each is there own. If this is how she gets her attention, so be it i guess. Its not like its GOOD attention.

    October 24, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • disappointed

      Did you even read the article? She is not trying to get attention. She simply accepts her body for how it is, rather than trying to conform to everyone else's idea of how she should look. Her response was incredibly poignant and inspiring. Unfortunately some people (and yes I mean you) can't seem to get past her appearance to understand the point she was trying to make by responding to the Reddit post in the way she did.

      October 26, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  9. Josh

    Will she also exhibit male pattern baldness at some point?

    October 24, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  10. Magic Undies

    id still hit it

    October 23, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • disappointed

      I see some people have still missed the point of this article...

      October 26, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  11. still curious

    I'm still wondering why she has a beard? What type of condition is causing it?

    October 19, 2012 at 1:32 am |
    • Pam

      Hirsutism is not a disease. The condition usually develops during puberty and becomes more pronounced as the years go by. However, an inherited tendency, over-production of male hormones (androgens), medication, or disease, can cause it to appear at any age.
      Women who have hirsutism usually have irregular menstrual cycles. They sometimes have small breasts and deep voices, and their muscles and genitals may become larger than women without the condition.
      I have a condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome that causes this too.

      October 23, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Arla

      There can be a few different causes. Over production of androgen/testosterone can be caused by a number of factors, both environmental (such as exposure to a man who uses testosterone gel) or biological factors such as a thyroid or pituitary problem. It's beautiful that Sikhs view their bodies as sacred blessings from God and treat them as such. I feel we can all take a lesson from this young woman, her faith, and her willingness to be open and honest with others to inspire them to be tolerant and less judgmental. 🙂

      October 24, 2012 at 8:11 am |
  12. Phil

    How long until the calls for the OP's head from all offended Muslims?

    October 16, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Heather

      Sikhs are not Muslims, and Muslims don't call for people's heads. Maybe instead of posting bigoted things on news sites, you could go read something about the religions in this world...you might learn something (like Muslims believe in Jesus!)

      October 16, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • Anchorite

      That's not a Muslim turban. Maybe you should be asking that question of conservatives. They're experts at being offended and victims.

      October 18, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  13. SoHappy

    I'm glad the OP of the picture has learned something out of this - and he is lucky that such a kind hearted individual has accepted his apology. To Balpreet Kaur, I hope I can one day be so confident like you are...and not in the way I look, but confident in what I stand for and believe in. Truly an inspiration!

    October 14, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  14. cleareye1

    Taking the picture is grounds for a lawsuit. What kind of half-with thinks this is unique? People do not come in only 2 varieties. Get used to it.

    October 13, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  15. JEM

    She must have a hormone imbalance. That much facial hair on a women is not normal.She looks like she has a full beard- side burns and stubble. As a medical student she should know what her "problem" is. She may not be able to do anything about except take HRT- estrogen- she may have PCOS
    If she is happy – fine but it does look abnormal and if it is a hormonal imbalance it can lead to other health problemsl

    October 13, 2012 at 3:20 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.