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. EverydayRunner

    Women shall look like women, no matter what their religion. I am not sure of why women shall be required to wear a turban? In Sikh religion, men shall wear turbans, and women shall cover their heads while at a place of worship, or while doing prayers. Head cover could even be accomplished using a small piece of cloth like a handkerchief, but most women use a 'dupatta'. I am not sure why some Sikh women are taking the respect of hair to the next level of not doing anything about facial hair, and wearing a 'turban' to cover their heads...

    September 28, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  2. felix el gato

    It's her life. She's not hurting anyone.

    September 28, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  3. HollyKumariji

    No one is mentioning the fact, that, as an Orthodox Sikh, she isn't supposed to cut her hair! and that means, facial, head, arm pit or otherwise! I know a lot of not so Orthodox Sikhs who sneak around that rule by bleaching, waxing, or laser treatments, but she happens to be hirsute and Orthodox. If she wasn't Orthodox, the hair would be long gone. Meanwhile, I admire her. You go girl!! It is amazing that one so young can be so gracious. Sat Sri Akal!

    September 28, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  4. LeeBee

    I don't understand why the media keeps referring to this person as a woman. He/she is wearing a turban. In Sikh culture, women do not wear turbans, therefore, I don't see how they can be considered a woman. He's a man with women's breast. Either way, if this person is transgendered, they deserve as much respect as everyone else.

    September 28, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • HollyKumariji

      Orthodox Sikh men and women wear turbans. It is not a sign of transgenderism.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  5. Budaweep

    She's disgusting. You know what else is natural? Yeast Infections. Just because it's natural doesn't mean you can't do something about it. I hope her girlfriend is ok with the look.

    September 28, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • person

      While I wouldn't exactly boff a woman with facial hair, how should a woman look? Should breast implants be outlawed because they're unnatural? Which is kind of funny because facial hair IS natural. Should I shave my beard that I've had for 5+ years? NO! Because IAMAMAN! IMANAMERICAN! YEAH! EAGLE! FLAG! JESUS CHRIST! AND MAN! YEAH! F___ YEAH! BEING WHITE! WE'RE #1! WE'RE #1!


      September 28, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  6. MagicPanties

    Not my cup of tea, but you go, girl!

    September 28, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  7. JonfromLI

    If a girl I was dating started to grow facial hair on her own; yes – I would have an issue with that. But this young woman is just another face in the crowd. It's her business to express herself in anyway she sees fit. More power to her as she doesn't even condemn the pictures taken of her and welcomes anyone to go over to say "hello". That's class and it shows a civility that those immature children taking her pictures should learn from.

    September 28, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  8. nowthatsrigh

    That's a woman?!??!?!?!?!?!?

    September 28, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • jay

      Yes and you heard her roar with class... next question.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  9. realtalker

    Ia absolutely love the sikh people. What struck me about Balpreet's reaction was that it was not defensive but rather inviting in tone. Sure she defended herself but she welcomed the attention positively because it gave her an oppurtunity to show what she is all about. After the shooting at the Sikh temple we saw the same type of reaction. Not an angry response but a peaceful one. The sikh people even mourned the loss of the shooter saying "a life is a life." They believe that all life is sacred. These are amazing people.

    September 28, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  10. ANONY

    Its a MAN with boobs! RUN!!

    September 28, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • ahaynes3

      Grow up!

      September 28, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Clara

      What a LOSER you are. Get a life ANONY!!

      September 28, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  11. Marc L from NY

    It doesn't matter what anyone thinks of this woman. The picture should never have been posted online without her knowing. It is a complete and total invasion of her privacy and I find it hard to believe a law was not broken. This behavior opens up the door to a very slippery slope of the limits of one's rights to privacy.

    September 28, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • realtalker

      I agree that the picture shouldn't have been posted, but when you are in a public place, you waive your right to privacy. Anyone can take a picture of you and even post it online if they want. It is not an invasion of your privacy. At least not from a legal standpoint but I agree that it was morally wrong of this individual to post it.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Mark

      Since the photo taker did not miss-represent the person or location and did not attempt to libel or slander anyone in the photo and did not attempt to make any gratuity from the posting of the image, it is perfectly legal to take and use the image in any way they choose. Not smart, but legal.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      " Anyone can take a picture of you and even post it online if they want." And since it's a free country, someone can kick down your door and make you unhappy about posting that picture. Actions have consequences, sure as water runs downhill.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • midwstrngrl

      wrong. she is not a public figure. if you take pictures and publish them you must get consent.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Mark

      @midwstrngrl, there is no law that exludes anyone but public figures from beng used in an image taken in a public place. The laws all revolve around how and where that image is used. That is also why Model Releases are required if you intend to make a living with images of other people.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Simon

      the old freedom of speech thing is a tricky puppy.

      September 29, 2012 at 12:14 am |
  12. person

    You know, I support her philosophy and do think it's fairly fascinating. Women aren't exactly as we'd like to personify them. I just wish some idea of god in the sky didn't make her feel obligated to do so. It's like the whole headscarf thing. Women don't HAVE to wear them, but because of some stupid sky god they believe in they almost feel obligated. It's strange how I'd have no issue with headscarfs or hijabs or whatever if they had nothing remotely to do with religion. It'd be the fact that you WANT to wear it. People don't realize how were largely shaped by our surrounds, people, religion and we don't really spend time thinking about how we'd shape ourselves, by ourselves, and who we truly are without any sort of bogus nonsense other people created for us to follow. I mean, it must be nice having a godtype father figured, patting your head like some sort of dog, acknowledging you exist....I don't know. Figure you your own life philosophies. Come to your own understands about the man made, idiotic reality that surrounds you.

    September 28, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • mkar

      Dress is often decided by community and family environment. If you are a man in USA, You could only wear few types of dresses in public. It is not that you are forced that way. But you are indirectly forced that way because of the attention you get. She might have grown up in a different environment. So that is normal for her.

      It is probably not too much related to religion.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  13. ROMNEY2012

    She is obviously cursed for worshiping a false god. In the bible, there is precedence for men gaining woman-like qualities as a punishment for refusing the love of the LORD. It can be assumed that rules that apply to men would also apply to women who are beneath them in importance to the LORD. Men around the USA are growing man-moobs for their disobedience to the Lord, and now women are growing beards. If people could control their UN-natural se-xu-al urges and outlaw such vile acts as what happens in San Francisco than the LORD would look upon us as a clean people, and we would reap the benefits of his love.

    Mitt Romney will lead this nation from the cesspool of heathen filth that we currently wallow in and into a blessed realm of good under the WORD of the LORD! A vote for Romney is a vote for THE LORD!

    September 28, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Kris

      Typical follower of Abrahamic Faith. Incredibly stupid and arrogant.

      September 28, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • Aaron

      You are the Cesspool Romney2012. Take care of yourself, you need help.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Greg

      Obviously the moral of this story has been lost on you and your religion based bigotry... I will vote for Obama, if for no other reason than to relish in your suffering for four more years.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • LoL2012

      I'm sure you're just trolling, but you do realize the Church has denounced Mormonism as a cult, right? Joseph Smith being a false prophet? So... why would you vote for a cult member?

      Same reason you hated on this person you don't even know. This whole article is about acceptance but apparently you didn't read it. I highly doubt you can read anyway or you'd realize the obviously contradictions between your beliefs and your Bible.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Brandon

      Can we just elect Romney so that he can see how wrong he is?
      I love that "Christians" use old testament teachings to support anything; most of them should have been executed for minor infractions such as eating shellfish or wearing different types of fabric together. The shame!!

      September 28, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Notbrainwashed

      Well, I guess I just found another reason not to vote for Romney. He has supporters like you who will find any reason to judge and hate. We have enough of that in the world and ironically, so much of it stems from religion; many of which preach love, forgiveness, and their god having the final judgement. This woman has found her true faith and has made her a better person for it.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • person

      Please, please, please, please tell me your just trolling....and if so, good job.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Scott

      Trolling troll is trolling. 4/10 for the outraged responses, but they're all echo chamber responses which are worth less pointswise.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • pbernasc

      well, I guess you are being funny and that you are not a Romney supporter but rather someone who is trying to make Romney supporters look stupid. I can assure you, there is no need to do that, they already are very good at that on their own.

      Of course, you could be the real thing as well. If that is the case, the only thing I can tell you is this: there is no God, there is no false lord nor true one, you are amazingly stupid, die and free this world from your useless existence

      September 28, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Hogan's Goat

      A vote for Romney is a whiz against the wind.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Dave Trausch

      Wow, ROMNEY2012, thank you for your post! I will not be voting for Romney, though. I'm going to write your name in on the ballot! Then we'll both have proven something: My vote doesn't count at all, and you are a perfectly "normal" ugly, non thinking person on the inside. 🙂

      September 28, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • SillyMan

      Just a troll. Probably a 14 year old high on pot, giggling at the responses. Yawn.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • midwstrngrl

      what bible are you reading that says you will turn into a woman? lol I dont believe in it, but I grew up in a religious family and I know it in and out. sorry dude you are smoking something.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • mkar

      Looks like you are cursed with lack of brain. 🙂

      September 28, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Wow

      Obviously you are going to hell because you are worshiping a false God by how obsessed you are with romney.. Lord please have mercy on his soul.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  14. Hogan's Goat

    This reminds me of my Uncle Ferd who invented a serum that could grow hair on a billiard ball. He died in poverty because there was no market for hairy billiard balls.

    September 28, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  15. Seyedibar

    I'd be quicker to make fun of her silly hat than her beard. That is one strange looking broad.

    September 28, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  16. faboge

    shes beautiful. If she can grow facial hair like that, how much ex president is she carrying back there?

    September 28, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Jen

      I must admit, that same thought crossed my mind...

      September 28, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      "how much ex president is she carrying back there" For all we know, it might be James Carville territory down there. Send in Seal Team Six to investigate.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  17. Dick Izinya

    I'm surprised a neuroscience student is religious. I'd be more embarrassed about that than the facial hair.

    September 28, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Dick

      Well Dick theres a reason they called you dick. Just because you believe in Religion doesn't mean science doesn't exist. IDIOTOS

      September 28, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • nope

      that's ok, no one would ever hire her. sikh's don't hire women, and no white person would go near that.

      September 28, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • Dick

      someone went beside your dear mother, so she has a chance as well.

      no need to be cruel mothafukaa

      September 28, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • @nope

      other races hire people too ya know...

      September 28, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • midwstrngrl

      its a more spiritual type religion. not so caught up in dogmatic rules. lives more by the principal of the "golden rule" or love.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • mkar

      Tell me a reason for neuroscience to be against God. Darwin theory can not fully explain all of that. If someone says it explains everything, Please answer the following question:

      For evolution to work, you need reproduction in life forms. How did the reproduction organs evolve? In science we reject all theories that have self contradiction. Why then are we sparing Darwin theory.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  18. Csense01

    An alarmingly high proportion of Americans here showing gross ignorance and bigotry.
    Take a look at yourself in the mirror. You had no hand in what you were born as. But you have had plenty of time to educate yourself since but never taken the opportunity, even in the relatively easy age of the internet. You think you are free yet yours is the most conformist society on the planet: everyone is expected to fit into a 'norm' else they get stared at and criticized. Take a look at yourself in the mirror again and be thankful that you exist and let others live.

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

      You can buy a razor at the dollar store...you are the one showing ignorance of other's freedom of opinions...

      September 28, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Bob

      Nothing about the way she was born or any of that mumbo jumbo prevents her from picking up a razor. I'm expected to be clean shaven at work, and I'm a man, which means growing facial hair is normal.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      This broad is the one who should look in the mirror, preferably while shaving.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Dracula

      "Take a look at yourself in the mirror." Yeah, taunt me all you like. It will be dark soon.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Scott

      @Bob: Actually, the "mumbo-jumbo" as you refer to it, does prevent you from picking up a razor, or cutting your hair. That is why Sikhs have beards and wear turbans. They do not cut their hair, the turban is how they keep their very long hair out of the way.

      That said, I thought it was only the men who did that, I've never seen a woman with the turban (or a beard), but if she's following that line of thought, she's not going to pick up a razor for a beard or her hair.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  19. eell

    What would cause a female to have such an abundance of facial like whiskers? Doesn't seem normal.

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

      Maybe she's in transition to become a man? Or its really a dude working to become a chick?

      September 28, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Truefax


      September 28, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Dick

      People are you that stupid? Do you think hair doesn't grow for women? TELL YOUR G/F, WIFE, MEXICAN, CUBAN, ETC. TO STOP SHAVING FOR A MONTH AND I GUESS YOU WILL BE SURPRISED TO SEE HAIR! 🙂 MORROOONSSSSS

      September 28, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Rachell

      Loads of things can cause facial hair and/or alopecia (baldness) in women. Usually hormonal conditions, PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) for example, can imbalance a woman's hormones and cause her to suffer from acne, facial hair, weight gain, hairloss....all kinds of fun stuff and sadly, it's pretty normal.

      September 28, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Bree

      Ethnic heritage, testostorone levels, and conditions like PCOS can affect the amount and location of body hair. Growing up as a female with culturally unaccepted body hair can be brutal.
      I think this woman's response to all of the negative comments and attention is nothing less than courageous.

      I hope anyone reading this article is reminded to do a little research and ask questions before writing someone off as weird or ugly. Since August, I have been learning more about the Shik religion, and I think it is beautiful. It doesn't take a lot of effort to educate yourself.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Mark

      @Rachell, you find "normal" sad. Now that, is sad.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Scott

      Females are *very* good at hiding facial and body hair if they are so inclined. The usual methods are shaving, tweezing, laser removal, or electrolysis. However, they do have it, more or less depending on the person. Younger women actually have quite a bit of it, although it is usually very fine. I've come across women that even have a very small, but noticable amount of darker hair on their chest, which is a bit of a surprise when you see that for the first time. An actual beard will probably require some unusual hormonal situation.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      " Doesn't seem normal." Go to any WalMart and you will have to re-think your definition of "normal."

      September 28, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Jean

      It's called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I'm a woman with a full beard and hair everywhere it shouldn't be. I've spent over $20,000 on every type of hair removal there is. I shave my face at least twice a day. But no matter what I do, it still comes back. I wish I had her fearlessness, her grace, her courage. I don't. Because I try so hard to disguise it, most people aren't aware I'm hirsute. But I hate the time, energy, and social fear that I live with daily. I will never have her presence, her complete acceptance of her condition. But I am going to try.

      I wish people commenting here could realize how difficult it is to be hirsute, to live in fear that someone will see my five o'clock shadow, that someone would cringe in disgust if they only knew.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  20. hannah1

    OMG. That's a female? She's no hottie.....

    September 28, 2012 at 10:33 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.