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. Cherries

    Uh, you're a bearded lady with a turban out in PUBLIC. Did you really think you weren't going to attract a little attention?

    September 28, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Cherries

      I think that's just a dude with a stuffed bra.

      September 28, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • hannah1

      Yuk. Maybe she was thinking no one would notice? Gross!

      September 28, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  2. Keratin

    The idea that "one's body hair is intrinsically beautiful and part of one's divine being" can be immediately countered by the fact that hair is made of keratin and thus is not living. By that logic, she should also never cut her fingernails and toenails. Absurd reasoning abounds here, and (surprise!) it is ultimately tied to religious indoctrination.

    September 28, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  3. me

    I think it's fair for it to be a curiosity... just as I would hope that it could lead to an outcome like what it did. We're human, we're not perfect... but just as Balpreet is comfortable in her skin, I think it's just as good that two people worked something out and made the story a good one... we're different, but if we take the time to think about things from someone else's viewpoint, and speak to each other with a bit of decency, then we can learn from someone different and be better for it...

    September 28, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  4. Reality

    Only for new members of this blog:

    AND EBOO PATEL SHOWS UP YET AGAIN: (read the complete story)

    A few facts:

    Eboo Patel pays himself $120,000/yr from the donations to his "non-profit. His “non-profit’s” investment portfolio is $1.2 million and he pays no taxes on the interest, dividends or capital gains on these investments making his Interfaith Core more of a tax-dodging investment company than a "non-profit". See guidestar.org.

    September 28, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  5. Jeff W

    More power to her, and she does not conform to what society thinks a Woman should look or dress like.

    September 28, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Keratin

      That is absurd, similar to congratulating a morbidly obese person for wearing a midriff-revealing shirt and opaque leggings. Don't encourage people to harm themselves in such a way.

      September 28, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  6. luchik33

    If one's body is sacred and one shouldn't alter it in any way, then why does she cut her nails?

    September 28, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  7. Cristoforo

    Live and let live!

    September 28, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  8. freetodowhatyoulike

    She is free to do what she likes with her own body. Shes causing no harm to anyone. But it is VERY unattractive!

    September 28, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Buddy

      YOU see to be a very ugly little person....Ho lost you sound

      September 28, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  9. Kimberly

    Inspiring! Also makes me ashamed of the "Westerners" who have spouted hate and ignorance over this. We as a society have a lot more "hangups" than just hair (@Sniffit) and could learn a wealth of knowledge from this young woman and her like-minded people.

    September 28, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      I just think it's weird to leave that alone when she could fix it in five minutes. Supposedly God wants His children to be happy.

      September 28, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  10. Humanist

    Perfectly acceptable and beautiful that a woman makes no apologies about her appearance... but the real question is not about her being forced to blend into Westernized society... but perhaps whether or not she is being forced by her religion to NOT change things she might ordinarily want to. I'm all for self-acceptance... but that also includes not being coerced by religious tenets and codes.

    September 28, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  11. shadwell

    Fairy tales preventing someone looking normal. See how silly religion is? No wonder those countries are still living in the 7th century, even sillier beliefs than western christianity

    September 28, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Theen Allah Fat Mullah (the original hinduism source.....)

      You have to be a real ignorant person to accuse someone living in 7th century because their lifestyle, or beliefs don't match with yours. What you do everyday for living, they do the same thing.......go to work, raise kids, pray God they like. WHEN YOU POINT ONE FINGER TO SOMEONE, YOU ARE POINTING THREE FINGERS TO YOURSELF.

      September 28, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Dzerres

      Wow, you totally missed the point. She is looking normal – her normal, not your normal. I agree religion is silly but this religion tells you to accept yourself as the Creator created you. That's pretty good even in my book.

      September 28, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • shadwell

      So thier god is so proud of the hair he has them cover it up with a turban? The world will be a better place when people stop putting so much faith into silly mythology. I could care less she looks like a total freak, but this is WESTERN SOCIETY, expect people to look strangley at you. Just like if a women was wearing a bikini in Saudia Arabia or India. Oh wait, you wouldnt be allowed to their because of religious doctrine lol.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • for Some Old Cow with PC

      why worry making the world a better place to live, when you can't fix your own house? It's 10:00 – Do you know where YOUR teenage daughter or granddaughter is? Oh you'r not supposed to ask in your trailer park "WESTERN SOCIETY", or people will look strangely at you.

      September 28, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  12. Kmmac

    She has an excellent point and I am really impressed. It takes a very mature and self-actualized person to respond the way she did. Some people need to feel good about themselves by judging other people for their looks and criticize them without seeing them as a person. But the high only lasts so long before the emptiness of your life sinks in and you need to look for the next person to taunt. My suggestion is take that energy and use to encourage people for doing good things with their life. IF you simply need to criticize her looks... PLEASE POST a PIC of yourself so that there is some creditbility to your mongering.

    September 28, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      " PLEASE POST a PIC of yourself " Just google "Bigfoot" or "Orangutan." That will be close enough.

      September 28, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  13. PCOSWoman

    This woman more than likely has a condition known as PCOS...

    September 28, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  14. Andy

    "I just wrote a song about this" – Steven Tyler

    September 28, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  15. 54654

    Challenge accepted.

    September 28, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  16. Andy

    I really liked her role in "Spaceballs"

    September 28, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  17. Sniffit

    "Sikh, Muslims and their hang ups about hair... Whether it should be seen or not, or cut or not... Why can't they just get over themselves? "

    You realize that "western" religions have hair hangups too? Go look up the word "tonsure" and educate your ignorant self. And that's just one of many examples.

    September 28, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • Huebert

      Western religions used to have hangups about hair. The vast majority of modern western religions allow people to ware their hair however they choose.

      September 28, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • anna

      But this is a woman (supposed to be). She looks disgusting.

      September 28, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  18. 919263


    September 28, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  19. ggargoyle

    Sikh, Muslims and their hang ups about hair... Whether it should be seen or not, or cut or not... Why can't they just get over themselves? Get a nice hair style and let it be seen in public. Remove unsightly facial hair or keep it trimmed. Why keep all that hair and wrap it in cloth? In stiflingly hot humid tropical countries yet! It must stifle their brains and maybe that's why they're stuck in the dark ages. There are no gods or deities to approve or disapprove of how one looks, and to the modern western mind it is just a matter of aesthetics and personal taste. This shows total disregard to aesthetics, and a lack of taste.

    September 28, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      "This shows total disregard to aesthetics, and a lack of taste." Oh, come on, I look worse than this girl, but I'm a hairy old man so it's all good. People give me lots of room in elevators and stuff. It's not that I lack taste, I just don't give a rat's shizzle. Nothing wrong with my aesthetic sensibilities; I take a great deal of pleasure in proportion and symmetry and color. I'm just not very symmetrical myself . . .

      September 28, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • ggargoyle

      Its all about conforming to an outdated, twisted piety.

      September 28, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  20. mike



    September 28, 2012 at 9:53 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.