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. Me

    Google images of Balpreet Kaur...he definitely has more wrong than an overabundance of facial hair...and people need to quit putting her on a pedestal for being the escaped beared lady from the circus vargus!

    September 28, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  2. tallulah13

    Good for her. It sounds like she's comfortable in her own skin, and more concerned with being a good person than being a good looking person. From what I've read, a lot of people on this blog could learn from her example.

    September 28, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • Brian

      She's also comfortable in her own goatee. Good for her! 🙂

      September 28, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  3. Glenda

    The woman obviously has a hormonal or endocrine problem. Perhaps she has not gotten treatment for it because of her religion, which is sad. Either that, or she was born with traits of both genders or perhaps has adrenal hyperplasia, which can cause facial hair and abnormal periods.

    September 28, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • DK

      Balpreet is an ethnic Punjabi, and Punjabi's (men and women) are very hairy. There is nothing wrong with her, she is living her life the best she feels fit....more power to her.

      September 28, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  4. NightOps

    Great ending. I wish all stories had as "enlightening" of endings as this!

    September 28, 2012 at 9:50 am |
  5. BobyM

    I may be ignorant, but this is not a woman, and if it is, she is utterly gross!

    September 28, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Huebert

      You're ignorant.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • tallulah13

      You're right. You are ignorant. And you are an uglier person than she will ever be.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Easy E

      You're not PC, but it isn't ignorance. There is a biological reason males find mostly hairless women attractive. A woman with a lot of facial hair = unlikely to be a successful procreator. We've evolved our ideas of beauty for a reason. It may be unfair, but it has a solid basis in reality.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • tallulah13

      Hey, E. This woman isn't asking you to procreate with her. Try using the big head instead of the little one for a change.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Easy E

      Talullah: don't worry, no one will be procreating with "her". And not surprisingly, you dodged the point, because the extreme feminist worldview cannot countenance much in the way of facts or objective reality.

      September 28, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • tallulah13

      E, this woman was just living her life. She didn't ask to have her picture taken and published. She didn't ask to be judged by shallow prats who can't see past their own physical desires. The very fact that you feel compelled to say offensive things, simply based upon her physical appearance reveals your true nature. It has nothing to do with feminism and everything to do with humanity. You are far uglier than she.

      September 28, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  6. Jose

    Now you know why the wear veils.

    September 28, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • joe

      now we know why ur IQ is so low

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

      Oh yeah lol. True true.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Adam

      They don't wear veils. Those are muslims. You F* du mb s h t id i ot.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • BobyM

      Don't be angry Adam. Better go suck on her beard.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • ascap

      Idiot, she is a Sikh not Muslim (so no veil). And is considered equal to men unlike Christian religions.

      September 28, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  7. Topanga Canyon

    Women come in all sizes, shapes and forms. Get over it!!!

    September 28, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • Reply1

      and so do Men

      September 28, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • Reply2

      and so does the rest of humanity!

      September 28, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • Easy E

      This isn't a size, shape, or form issue, it's a personal grooming/hygiene issue. She looks like she lives under a bridge in a refrigerator box.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      @ Topanga Canyon
      Spoken like someone who has let themselves go. But hey.. I’m sure you’ve got a great personality..right?

      September 28, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  8. Me

    You MUST be a krack – er or peck – er – wood

    September 28, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  9. NorCalMojo

    How is this article and commentary any different from the original posting?

    It's worse. Editors should have more integrity than joe-reddit user.

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

    Why do people feel the need to cast judgement on this woman? Everyone on this planet is screwed up in their own way. Is she hurting anyone? So she's got facial hair, big deal. it only matters if she's a nice person.THAT'S IT!!!!!!!

    September 28, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  11. Mark

    @jim111506, The pharmacy called, your Chlorpromazine & Olanzapine are ready.

    September 28, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  12. barnum and bailey

    Looks like somebody's burka is at the cleaners.

    September 28, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • AP

      Barnum and Bailey. You are both ignorant and dumb. Sikhs don't wear burka, only Muslims do. If you don't know anything, you should stop posting comments.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Jason

      And this is part of what's wrong with America. Sikhs don't wear burkas, you empty headed doofus. They are not Muslim. Not even close. Try gaining a bit of knowledge, let it simmer in the squishy material between your ears that passes for a brain, THEN speak. "For it is far better to remain silent and be presumed a fool than to speak and remove all doubt."

      September 28, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  13. Really

    I don't see how her religion comes into play here. The poster was wrong to take the picture and post it. I just don't believe you should take pictures of people and do what you want without their permission. She looks different, but so do many people. Everyone should know by now that the measure of a person is not by looks alone. This guy was wrong for being so childish period. She might not have been part on any religion, it's still wrong to do what he did.

    September 28, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  14. SueW

    Kudos to Balpreet Kaur. She sounds like a well grounded and wonderful person who is confident in herself. Too bad the trolls who hide behind their keyboards to attack people don't share those same traits.

    September 28, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • Easy E

      This isn't confidence. She is intentionally creating controversy by refusing to groom herself. Anyone can adopt the "hirsute gorilla" look by simply being very lazy. I'm a man and even I wouldn't want that much facial hair, it's disgusting.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • DK

      Easy E, Sikh men and women do not shave, they let their hair grow....know what they are one of the most successful people in the world. Their confidence comes from being "different" from day one. A sikh child does not cut his hair, in fact it is carefully groomed and kept in place in a turban. You want to look at numbers...they account for less than 2% of India's population, but account for 30% of the armed forces, they win a disporportionate share of gallantry medals for currage under enemy fire. In the US they have one of the highest % in starting and owning their own businesses...they my friend are not cowards!!!

      September 28, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  15. barnum and bailey

    the circus is coming ,the circus is coming

    September 28, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  16. LPL

    I want to hold her down and wax her face!!!

    September 28, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • abc

      I want to hold you down and pull your tongue out....i wanted t o say ..pull your brain out..but then I realized you don't have anything up there to pull anyway so might as well just pull that tongue.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  17. Chere

    Funny thing is you would cry foul but she did not. She obviously is more human and has more soul to than you. Just because you post anonymous does not mean that you are. Your intelligence is also showing be-careful.

    September 28, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  18. Berk Demirbulakli

    I like my women dark and hairy.

    September 28, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  19. Marti

    There is more to this story. I think she enjoys looking manly. Why she does is not my business, but products for feminine hygiene have been around for as long as unwanted facial hair has because women do try to take some pride in their appearance. She is deliberately courting attention by allowing her chin hairs to grow in. She wasn't born into her religion. I think if you got to know her, you would find some serious issues with this young woman once you peel back the layers. One of my greatest fears is that someday I will be physically unable to take care of my appearance and my caregivers will allow me to look like that! I know, I know....she's beautiful inside and out, etc. Sorry, I think she CAN be beautiful inside and out, but doesn't want any man's attention and this is how she is handling it.

    September 28, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • Rinsewind

      Pretty sure you're the one with the issues here, Marti.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • Doomed

      I feel sorry for you. You are going to have a terrible time coping with the reality of growing old and dying. Balpreet embodies a higher state of mind than you are, quite obviously, capable of understanding.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • BKLYN

      You are not very bright Marti. This is not about hygine. She is not dirty. I assume you are speaking of her hair? Sihks do not cut their hair. so you are imply that she should foresake her beliefs and religion because most woman think facial hair is unbecoming?

      You seem quite shallow. Let us remember – she did not ask for this attention. This befell her through the inconsiderations of others, and yet she has ahndled it with incredible grace and dignity.

      I would hope the lesson from this is not further judgement, but further acceptance of those around us.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • Mark

      Why do you think she needs to fit your missguided vision of beautiful. I hope you live long enough to look like your grandmother.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • Easy E

      I'm pretty sure it's the rest of you who have the issues. This woman has decided to make a freak show out of her refusal to engage in normal personal hygiene. Sure, we can all be "comfortable" looking like a troop of howler monkeys or skid row winos. Sorry, there's such a thing as pride. Most people don't aim to make the "people of Walmart" list. Going around displaying a complete lack of concern over personal appearance is the provence of the mentally ill, no doubt doubly ironic for a psychology grad student.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • codepink1908

      "i think if you got to know her, you wuld find some serious issues with this young woman once you peel back the layers"....OMG; Marti I totally get what you are saying because I feel the same about you; I have no doubt that you as well have some serous issues; I wouldn't even want to peel back your layers.....

      September 28, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      Marti, does she use those same 'glands' to grow hair that other women use to avoid getting pregnant from r4pe? Tell us more! Can she direct the hair to grow in patterns, or does it just come in wild? Can all women grow face hair if they want?

      September 28, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • Marti

      Wow, what a bunch of hypocritical infants you all are. You preach about all goodness and light, but try to disagree with your views and the insults spew forth. Grow up. The Sikh community doesn't force her to do this. Their women look feminine. She is on a mission here for I don't know what. To be someone people stare at so she can preach about how mean everyone is to her and how forgiving she is? Maybe her photo isn't posted every day, but I doubt this is the first time she's used her appearance to do that.

      September 28, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  20. Bible Clown©

    So, if she had a hump and a clubfoot, she'd be okay with that as well? I bet her parents would have had surgery if she had a cleft palate. Why not fix a minor thing like ugly fuzz?

    September 28, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • SueW

      Bible Clown, just because you are hairless and have a nub doesn't mean you should lash out at others who are more confident.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • Easy E

      Sue: that isn't confidence, that's craziness. She looks AWFUL.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      "Bible Clown, just because you are hairless and have a nub " Boy, have YOU got the wrong clown. Of all the people to accuse of being 'hairless,' you pick me? The legend of Bigfoot was born when I streaked in high school. And a 'nub?' Really, you are fantasizing about my equipment already? We've just met, honey, slow down. But seriously, why would God not let her shave or depilate? It's a medical issue.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Thirteen Fingers

      Really? I have what looks like a club foot. I have no toes and it's very deformed. It can't be fixed. It's not who I am. I am okay with it. I can't control all of my deformities and people stare at times. Who we are on the inside is more important and if you're not shallow and superficial, you would see that.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      13, yeah, but a 'classic' clubfoot can be fixed with a quick surgery and a cleft palate's not hard to correct. What you can't fix, you have to put up with, and I know this well from personal experience; but I bet you'd be okay with having your foot fixed if a new surgery came around. I've got to have a hip replaced in the coming years, and I'm not looking forward to it.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:56 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.