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. cnnlicksit

    Did anyone else pleasure themselves to that picture besides me?

    September 28, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      No. You are a unique person indeed.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:38 am |
  2. STS

    This is what is wrong with our world. So many are brainwashed that there is no God and that we don't have to be kind to each other. So it has become natural for people to be murdered and ridiculed. We are all human beings born of the same flesh and we should learn to be more compassionate to each other. I can already see the comments that this will garner, but reading the same trash that are in these comments every day gets old. Yes, she has a beard and wears a turban but no matter how different she thinks you look, she would not judge you as you have judged her. I know this will fall on deaf ears and blind eyes, but I hope the people that she touches will remember the lesson she has taught will remain in their hearts.

    September 28, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  3. Otto

    I'd hate to see the hair on her other lips.

    September 28, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  4. Johnny

    Its funny most you think this is gross, but cant see that when two men or two women kissing in public is not. This woman doesn't have the choice where she can just stop growing her facial hair. Sure she can shave or get treatments, but you all can also just stfu and be tolerant and courteous.

    September 28, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • brian

      who says 2 girls or guys kissing in public is not wrong...I think 2 f@ghots kissing should be subject to death row....PhUking F@GHOTSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!?!!!!!!

      September 28, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  5. Evenstar13

    This woman is an example to all the vain, narcissistic people who believe that what you look like and what you possess defines who you are. Character is so much more importatnt than looks or possessions ! God bless her and may she remain in the peace of God!

    September 28, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  6. Greg

    Is this even a story? Thanks CNN...groundbreaking work once again!

    September 28, 2012 at 8:58 am |
  7. Mark

    For all of you who wouldn't "date", kiss", "hit on", "touch", or whatever, her, she doesn't care and neither do we. For those of you who claim she must be a dike because she's hirsute, I suggest you check into how much your own grandmothers, mothers, aunts and sisters have to shave and pluck. Get some therapy, you're lonely, she's not.

    September 28, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • AverageJoe76

      @jim111506 – You just need to be open-minded enough to realize that YOUR vision of beauty, may not be everyone's (It may be for 99.9%.... but still not everyone's)

      And not just that.... applaude her bravery. She's courageous. More admirable than trying to please someone with your view.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:23 am |
  8. Duane

    Sounds like there is a better understanding between the two.....something good came of this

    September 28, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  9. BROWN

    my daughter has facial hair just like her,I have tried every thing, lazer treatment, nair hair removal,She is having a hard time because she is only 15
    years old, can someone please help her.

    September 28, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • Renee

      Take her to the doctor...

      September 28, 2012 at 9:30 am |
  10. Elizabeth

    Excess facial hair comes with the territory of PCOS, which I have as well. I fight with my excess hair every day, and I am completely in awe of this woman who is so dedicated to her religious beliefs that she lets herself be natural. Especially when there's so many d-bags in the world, as evidenced by these comments.

    September 28, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  11. AverageJoe76

    She's strong. An admirable quality in any human. Balpreet Kaur, your response to this is a beautiful example to the rest of us.

    September 28, 2012 at 8:48 am |
  12. Love NutT(ed)

    Slowly...I leaned over and kissed her....and for the the very first time in my life I didnt care about the hair....as long as it has B00BIES

    September 28, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  13. bail bond law enforcement

    Useful information. Fortunate me I found your web site by accident, and I am stunned why this coincidence did not came about earlier! I bookmarked it.

    September 28, 2012 at 8:40 am |
  14. Chris Honry

    I think a crocodile dundee check is in order.

    And btw, it's perfectly legal to take pictures in a public area and anyone so uptight to disagree needs to check the LAW. DF's.

    September 28, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • jakedog

      No one said anything about legality. They said it was wrong, referring to morality. Learn to read clown.

      September 28, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • John

      Its perfectly moral and normal to take pictures of people who look like idiots, and post them on the internet.

      September 28, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      " it's perfectly legal to take pictures in a public area" Hang around a grade school taking pictures of the kids and we'll see how your 'internet law degree' holds up in court. Exposing someone to public ridicule can have expensive and permanent consequences. How would you like it when her brothers went after your sister in return? When her dad came to your workplace with a shovel? This is a real person with feelings.

      September 28, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • Chere

      Obviously you can not read nor write in complete sentences with out using middle school text.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • Jo

      Actually, I did a thesis on this subject while in college as a journalism student. My actual focus was accident scenes – meaning, should a newspaper photographer have the right to take a photo of someone in a vulnerable situation like that and publish it in the newspaper? Granted, this was a decade ago, prior to the days of ubiquitous camera phones, so things are different now, I'm sure. But it was amazing how there were absolutely NO laws or "rules" about this. The general MO was that if something happens out on the street where anyone walking by could see it, you are free to photograph it and distribute at will.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Actually dog, they’ve been saying ‘no right’ which could implies an actual right to or not to do something. That is legality. YOU learn to read clown.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  15. mstev

    @WASP: shaving has absolutely nothing to do with growing hair. Do some research. Who are you to say how much facial hair is natural to this woman?!

    September 28, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • Chris Honry

      Imagine what the bush looks like!

      September 28, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • mstev

      @jim: the do your research comment was in reference to WASP's statement that she wouldn't have this much facial hair unless she shaved every day. I didn't think that needed an explanation. Obvioiusly it did.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  16. Bible Clown©

    Bottom line: she won't take five and shave that fuzz off because of God.

    September 28, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • herpderp

      Kind of silly. It could be more about self-acceptance but instead it's about old fictional stories.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  17. irock

    They have procedures for that......

    September 28, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • herpderp

      Did you really not just read this very short piece? She does not want it corrected because of her religious beliefs.

      September 28, 2012 at 8:58 am |
  18. Andy Raxis

    Whoa whoa whoa, one of the comments is "it's not okay to take pictures of strangers and post them on the Internet". Totally false, at lease from a legal standpoint. If you are in public or visible from a public place in Ohio (where I also live, Cincinnati) it is perfectly legal to take a picture of anything and anyone you want. You can then post them, print them whatever – without ever getting permission. Permission is a courtesy, not a requirement. I'll defend the right to do this, but I would also caution them to use some good taste next time.

    September 28, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • jakedog

      No one siad anything about legality, they siad it was wrong morally. You clowns need to learn to read.

      September 28, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      "You can then post them, print them whatever – without ever getting permission." If that was my sister, I'd cut your head off and stick it on a pole. Do you reckon that would be legal in your state? Possibly I would be acquitted, and possibly not, but you would certainly have a last moment of poignant regret in which you wondered whether the enjoyment you got from shaming a stranger was actually worth it in the end?

      September 28, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • Andy Raxis

      You're right – it does not say anything about legality, nor did my response suppose that it did. Just pointing out the facts based on the comment in the article:

      "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.

      In fact this is not a lesson to be learned, it is OK to take photos of strangers and post them on the Internet without permission.

      Learn to read critically, rather than just slobbering all over the words.

      September 28, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  19. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    I don't care how nice she is.. thats just gross.

    September 28, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • WASP

      @TOM: i can agree, it's not the most appeasing look for a female. i know females grow facial hair naturally, but not this much unless they have shaved multiple times in their lives. it's kindof freaky.

      September 28, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • Kristina

      Actually there are medical conditions that can cause women to grow facial hair just like men. And the old wives tale that shaving causes you to grow more hair is just silly. Do a bit of medical research please–you can start by looking up hursutism.

      September 28, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • AverageJoe76

      Awwww, Tom. 🙁

      September 28, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • Obama 2012

      idiot tom do u look in the mirror ? if you did u will realize u are teh ugliest thing

      September 28, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      @ AverageJoe76
      Do you find this bearded woman attractive?

      September 28, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      @ Obama 2012
      How would you know? Oh.. that’s right you couldn’t possibly. You are instead judging someone based on a one sentence comment. And you call someone else an idiot...LOL.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • AverageJoe76

      @ Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son – Ok, she's not my type..... granted. But to call someone 'gross' is insensitive. Would if how you look was deemed 'disgusting' to a majority of people? But it's you, and it's just you being you. I wouldn't like for people to ridicule you. I normally side with the underdog. It's my nature. And I hate bullies.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  20. bobmc

    She/he probably has mail parts downstairs as well, definately way to much testosterone...bad gene pool...that is for sure..reminds when George Benard Shaw was at a party and this knock dumbell blonde came up to hin and goes..
    :'Mr.Shaw we should mate for I would have a child that has your intellect and my looks, how marvcelous', he replied, "Interesting what if it had my looks, and your intelligence." .. bada boom ..

    September 28, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • WASP

      @bob: ROFLMFAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      September 28, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • child of midian

      " mail parts"
      Alert USPS

      September 28, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      "She/he probably has mail parts downstairs as well, definately way to much testosterone...bad gene pool.." This says more about you and your weird fantasy life than it does about this poor chick. Grow a pair yourself maybe?

      September 28, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • herpderp

      Wow you're dumb.

      September 28, 2012 at 8:56 am |
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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.