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. Kalowg

    I'm sure everyone offended also holds back whenever they see a person with a colored mohawk, someone with excessive ink on their body, and inner city people wearing their pants around their ankles.

    They are after all just "different" and shouldn't be scrutinized.

    Or as I suspect this is just a bunch of liberal PC nonsense. The only other dead giveaway that she shouldn't have been ridiculed is if she was wearing a pride shirt while in a wheel chair.

    September 27, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • Rinda Lynn

      Right, very eyeopening to how far humans discriminate without realizing that they are even practicing discrimination.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:21 am |
    • Prettygal

      If she was a Sikh woman in India, she would be laughed out of town. Sikh women are (mostly) quite pretty and well-groomed. Her family members should talk some sense into her.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  2. dandeman

    Have you ever seen the movie "Life of Brian" ? Where the women in the stoning scene all wear false beards so they can paticipate in the stoning of a Blasphemer? This just reminded me of that, I don't know why.

    September 27, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  3. WN

    I stand in awe of women like this who have the courage and strength of character to stand up for what they believe in. Balpreet, I wish more people were like you and did what they believe in without letting less understanding humans get in the way of their beliefs or convictions. The world would be a much better place if they did. Thank you.

    September 27, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • tomtom

      couldn't agree more. i feel the same way about muslim women with head coverings in america. brave, poised, and intelligent lot they are!

      September 27, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Letting yourself go in the name of your beliefs is not courage. It's a lack of self respect.

      September 28, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  4. R Singh

    Pround of the way my sister has nandled all the good, bad and the ugly. You have shown a brother the true meaning of being one with the GURU. You are an Inspiration that will guide many seekers of the true meaning of life.

    September 27, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  5. Elmer117

    There are a LOT of women who, especially as we age, grow facial hair just like males. When I get in the nursing home (should I live so long) and am senile, if no aide shaves me, I will be sporting a really great beard. I shave each day, and I pluck what I can with tweezers (makes it stay gone longer), but it's a losing battle. I'm mortified that someone will brush my jawline/chinline and feel the stubble that's there. I've been checked by doctors (when it really started growing in my 40s), but I check out normal. I feel for this young woman, but I am in awe of her, as she sticks to her beliefs.

    September 27, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • cs76

      I have the same problem, because I have PCOS. It causes excess hair growth in all the wrong places. I'm horribly embarrassed by my "issue" and have thought about saving up to get laser hair removal. It's horribly expensive and insurance will not pay for it. I'm just glad to know that I'm not the only one.

      September 28, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  6. Aud

    Meh, it's just hair. (shrug)

    September 27, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Lets see if you say the same thing when it’s in your salad.

      September 28, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • A. Goodwin

      Tom Tom – Are you upset that she's more masculine than you...or do you always act like a buffoon?

      September 28, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  7. BigBird Johnson

    So that's why they hide their faces!

    September 27, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Afghan Vet

      Still haven't learned the difference between Sikhism and Islam I see.

      September 27, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • dupinder

      Sikhism originated in India in 15th century as saintly community but later in 17th century got converted to warrior saint religion because of oppresion and forceful conversion by mughal (muslim) emperors, and one of the main reason why sikhs statrted wearing turban was because during those times only muslim kings were allowed to wear it , so sikhs fearlessly accepted it and challenged the mughal empire. i hope this information helps

      September 27, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • justuandme

      Its sad you have access to the internet but lack the intelligence to use it wisely.

      September 28, 2012 at 8:34 am |
  8. Your Panties in Texas

    I totally approve. She is soooooooooo Nice.

    September 27, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • choward5400

      Nice work lady

      September 27, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  9. Randy


    September 27, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • this guy

      +1 agreed

      September 28, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Johnny

      RANDY...DID YOU JUST LOOK IN THE MIRROR. Oh...then I get it.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  10. John Robertson

    She'll have problem in the Job interview section of her life.. I respect the Sikh religion but I'm sure not many Sikh men will find this attractive.. She'll die alone..

    September 27, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • Judge Much?

      What is that supposed to mean? "She'll die alone."
      Newsflash, bucky: we all die alone. And, given the outpouring of support she's gotten, I bet she'll have more people holding her hands at her deathbed than most of the rest of us. The most important thing (which you seem to overlook here) is that she'll die happy. Plenty of people die unhappy and not-alone, if you get my drift.

      September 27, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  11. Joe

    I dig Italian chicks.

    September 27, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  12. Jane2u

    Hmm, glad that she's comfortable in her skin (and hair). However, the Sikhs in India are not this fanatical as I see them in Canada and some other places.
    The idea behind growing out hair comes from the 5 K's (One of the K's was Kesha -which means hair on the head and not on the body) which a SIkh had to adhere to at all times. Perhaps it's because non Indian Sikhs don't understand Hindi/Punjabi. Anyways, I would be extremely uncomfortable talking to a girl who has facial hair like her...even I tried my best not to be shallow...just like I'd be equally uncomfortable talking to a nude person.

    September 27, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center

      I would not feel uncomfortable, but it would be better I think if she would come out and be honest. S.e.x changes are very common now, she might want to consider it and quit denying who she is.

      September 27, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Mina

      I am from India and Sikhs are not allowed to even cut/shave off facial hair. If she is a very firm believer then I can see her adhering to these rituals.

      September 27, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • tomtom

      i concur. the odd thing is that it's not even part of her religion.. :/

      September 27, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • conrad

      The only thing more strange than women with hair on their face, legs, arms, etc is the completely arbitrary and unnatural social contrivance that it should NOT be there. It is there and it's just another of the great many exressions of life that emerge on this earth. What is bizzare and unnecessarily harmful is that we find something completely normal to be shocking. A lot of women get hair on their faces they are simply pressured into removing it. It's just hair ... its not worth judging or rejecting oneself over it.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  13. hinduMithraism Christianity baseofhindufilthyracism.

    NFL, truth, a pass conceived is hail mary, absurdity of replacement officials, ignorant, high school officials is dependent on blind calls, program also known as scrubs strike 180 absurd, and pass interference is development of a blind man in to a receiver. have some eduction, knowledge, before throwning flag for block in back, To learn more visit nfl,com and click on referee lock-out to open file.

    September 27, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • CarolinaKate

      What on earth are you talking about!?

      September 28, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  14. CielExpédié

    Monsieur Eh bien, si vous voulez savoir, j'ai été obligé de fuir ces articles par tommie tom, scotty toux quand ils m'ont couru pour être un chrétien. Maintenant, je suis dans la clandestinité en France de faire le travail du Seigneur Dieu à l'abri. C'était pour moi diffuclt voler si je devais prendre une barge poubelle sur les mers.


    September 27, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  15. 24 Hour Crisis Center

    I call B.S.

    Here is what I suspect, she is a lesbian. Her religion makes it very convienent to stay in the closet because she can spin her looks and lifestyle to fit neetly into the Sikh philosophy.

    My guess is her girlfriend likes the facial hair so she keeps it. Same as anyone else, please your partner.

    I am sure she is nice person and all, but B.S. and would put money on it.

    September 27, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center


      September 27, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Mike

      Sikh's are neither Muslims nor pedophiles. You are mistaken.

      September 27, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center


      Huh?? Are you replying to the right post??

      September 27, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • CarolinaKate

      Were you born this stupid, or did you have to work to get there?

      September 28, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
  16. 24 Hour Crisis Center

    Now that is a handsome woman.

    September 27, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  17. Towelie

    I must be high. I don't even know what's going on.

    September 27, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  18. Mac

    Stop judging other people using your optics

    September 27, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center

      Stop tasting other people using your budniks.

      September 27, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Towelie

      Do you all want to get high?

      September 27, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center

      No Towlelie, I don't want to get high. I can't speak for Mac. You are such a towel.

      September 27, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • Towelie

      You're a towel 24!

      September 27, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Timmy

      Towelie, how is Washcloth doing these days?

      September 27, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • Towlie

      Washcloth is a towel.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  19. Kat Kinsman

    "Moral" right to mock?! I would not mind seeing some more insight on your reasoning here, because I am honestly not grasping what value that adds to the world.

    September 27, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      That was to the poster below, William.

      September 27, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • ME II

      Does every moral right have to add something to the world?

      September 27, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      I can't see how something moral would take away from the world, or someone else's right to be treated with dignity. Honestly, what would it cost a person to not say something awful to another person? Quick, cheap laugh for the moment. They feel humiliated for a good, long while.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • ME II

      @Kat Kinsman,
      I could see a few of possibilities...
      1 – ridicule (mean mocking) like fear can potentially achieve good over all. It might disabuse people of bad behavior which otherwise they might not be aware of or reach someone, who for some reason, such as pride, previously has failed to listen to more polite corrections in thought and/or behavior.
      2 – freedom of expression as a basic right and a benefit to society as a whole must by its nature include most forms of expression, mocking and ridicule is such a form.
      3 – as an art form satire (artistic mocking) can be beautiful, entertaining, and informative.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      You can dance around with semantics all you'd care to. What it comes down to is, when you had a chance to behave decently to another person, did you? If not – why? Honestly, I am asking why.

      And if you are disabusing someone of "bad behavior" - did they ask you to do so or are you just satisfying an itch you feel like scratching? How does it harm you in any way if she does not pluck her facial hair? She lives with it and you do not. Why does she need correction from you or anyone else?

      September 27, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • CarolinaKate

      @ ME II
      What makes you think that you have the right, or the wisdom, to dictate someone else's choices; and why on earth do you think they care?

      September 28, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  20. William Demuth

    I am confused.

    Why is it American woman can be expected to wear head coverings when traveling in the middle east, based on an expectation of respect for their culture, yet we can't expect the same courtesty from them when they travel here?

    When in Rome, do as the Romans, or stay out of Rome.

    We have societal norms, and while you are within your rights to break them (provided you abide by the law) we are within our rights to rejects your behavior.

    Freedom is a double edged sword, because it cuts BOTH ways.

    If you refuse to respect modernity and secularity, and wish to parade around like it is the eight century, we are well within our legal and moral rights to mock you.

    September 27, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Just a John

      It even gets more stupid, William. I read somewhere that there are some Islamic women that have become citizens that are required to show photo ID before voting that refuse to take off their face veils so that they can be positively identified. When in Rome indeed! Same thing happens at airports, I guess?

      September 27, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • ME II

      @William Demuth,
      "We have societal norms, and while you are within your rights to break them (provided you abide by the law) we are within our rights to rejects your behavior."
      Our societal norms are to not break the law, but otherwise you are free to do what you want. And that includes wearing turbans, niqabs, shaving your hair, wearing crucifixes, etc. ... and mocking people (as long as it is not harassment, threatening, disturbing the peace, etc.).

      September 27, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center

      If people would just leave me the fuk alone that is all I need. Could care less what other people look like or what they wear. Who cares.

      September 27, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • misha`

      So you have a moral right to be a jerk, is what you're saying?

      September 27, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Mina

      American women are not expected to do anything contrary to their religion when they travel abroad. This woman just has facial hair, she is not harming anyone. Get real.

      September 27, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Arielski

      Are you asking why we should be tolerant of religious, gender and social differences, even when other societies are not? Simple – we know how to behave correctly, others do not. I can't imagine why you think it is "morally" correct to mock anyone who is different.

      BTW, my husband is an double amputee. I guess you must think that is hilarious.

      September 27, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • BioHzrd

      Why societal norm in the US says you can't wear a head covering? As long you aren't breaking the law you can put whatever you please on your head, society by d*mned.

      September 27, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • Holding it down

      See a shrink, you might still be savable.

      September 27, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • tomtom

      she is not from the middle east you dimwit. she probably has indian heritage.
      oh, and btw, american women do not have to cover their hair when they travel to the middle east. don't make up stuff to hide your ignorance, you neanderthal.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Mark

      Yes, you are confused. Please seek help.

      September 28, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Johnny


      Sikhs are from India to all you who lack knowledge.

      This is the reason that Sikhs in Wisconsin were murdered because some Kluless Klucks Klown thought they were Muslims.

      October 2, 2012 at 11:00 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.