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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. Dava Shorb

    Good for her. What's wrong with just being who you are?

    September 29, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • whotoo

      good question , it will not be answered ,its like asking muslims if they eat halal fish , these people are the owner of their religion even if they dont have basic understanding ..

      September 29, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
  2. aysha85

    Is cutting nails allowed in sikhism?

    September 29, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • whotoo

      good question, it will not be answered, its like asking muslims if they eat halal fish, these people are the owner of their religion, even if they dont have basic understanding..

      September 29, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
    • AKB

      Yes, nail cutting is allowed. And so is waxing facial hair. Balpreet Kaur seems like a nice girl, but her interpretation of our religion is way extreme. Sikh women may keep their hair long, but we also like to present ourselves well, and that does NOT include facial hair. It's great that she is so secure, but facial hair is not attractive.

      September 30, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • Al

      The way it as explained to me was nail clipping is an act of cleanliness not necessarily beautification. On top of that the average persons nails don't continue to grow super long without extreme care being taken to avoid breakage or wearing them down. It's like bathing, washing your hair etc. You need a clean healthy body to serve God and to serve others so routine maintenance is to be expected.
      Analongy: Tune ups, new tires, oil changes etc: OK. Spinning rims, ghost paint jobs and spoilers: Not so much.

      October 2, 2012 at 12:20 am |
  3. BigDog

    if she has that much hair on her face, imagine what the ol clam looks like. Scary. Probably a total mess

    September 29, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • ohiasia

      Gauche doggie.

      September 30, 2012 at 5:44 am |
    • Jeeper

      Now thats funny.

      September 30, 2012 at 6:13 am |
    • DigBog

      Probably looks like your face. And you call yourself BigDog...is that because you have a small one? You're probably a Yorkie in a land of Great Danes. Is that why you shower at home instead of at the gym?

      September 30, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Johnny

      BidDog...tough guy making fun of people...to justify your own FAILURES and INSECURITIES.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  4. DM

    Article: "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."

    Summary shows author has failed to truly comprehend the situation. You have no authority to define what is or is not "beautiful". It is unusual for this country. "Unusual" does not require that you like or dislike the look, that's up to you. Politeness requires that you react with standard courtesy, this is the universal truth to see in this.

    September 29, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  5. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    September 29, 2012 at 6:45 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but your assertions regarding atheism and prayer are unfounded. The degree to which your assertions may represent truths is 0.0. To help you understand the degree to which your assertions may represent truths, I will access my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE). Using my IEE module, the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book might help you overcome this problem:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...
      by the Alzheimer's Disease Society

      September 29, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • Michael

      @ hal- that is hal of funny!

      September 29, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Atheism is healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer alone does nothing, except for possibly giving the person doing the praying a false sense of accomplishment.

      September 29, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • He Who Laughs, Lasts!

      Hal9001 – you should seek some serious therapy. There's more to life than book learning and if you can't see beyond the ignorance of man's science into the wonder that is this existence, you're probably an incredible bore. And judging by your answer, you are. Even Mr Spock, the paragon of logic, found that there is more to life than logic and science. So quit being such a sad little man with no friends and go out and get laid, get drunk and get over yourself, dude.

      September 30, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • truth be trolled

      ". . .and if you can't see beyond the ignorance of man's science into the wonder that is this existence . . ."

      I think I smell a disgruntled ex Evangelical Fortune Cookie Co. "writer" ("He Who Laughs, Lasts!")

      September 30, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!-.

      October 1, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  6. John

    All religions that involve a god or superior being are myth.

    September 29, 2012 at 5:48 am |
    • RK

      And your proof of such? It sounds like you're quite dogmatic on this point, so some proof that all faiths that believe in God or a supreme being would perhaps enlighten the majority of us who do believe that God exists.

      September 29, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • Rodimus

      @RK> The null hypothesis is that gods do not exist, until there is sufficient evidence to do otherwise non-believe is the rational course.

      September 29, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • He Who Laughs, Lasts!

      John – isn't your name synonymous with a toilet? – you don't know that, nor does anyone else. But you've clearly given up looking. How sad for you. I'll bet you're one of those guys who can't see the forest for the trees. It's not about God, dude. It's about being better than you are, something you're clearly not doing well.

      September 30, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • truth be trolled

      "I'll bet you're one of those guys who can't see the forest for the trees."

      Yep – it sure it the disgruntled ex Evangelical Fortune Cookie Co. "writer". ("He Who Laughs, Lasts!")

      September 30, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • Johnny

      John, even if you're correct...this is hardly the article to vent your perception. Why don't you look at other news stories for now. Run along now....

      October 2, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  7. Vicki

    She should go get some hair removed permanently. She would feel a lot better about herself. She obviously has too much male hormones and that could be checked as well. No woman of any faith would want to look like a man with a mustache and beard.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:34 am |
    • cryofpaine

      Obviously you didn't read the article very well. She's fine with the way she looks, so why should she undergo a lengthly, expensive, and painful process just to conform to someone else's idea of beauty? If she wants to, fine, but it sounds to me that she's not the one who has a problem with the way she looks.

      September 29, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • ohiasia

      You're in your own little world, aren't you?

      September 30, 2012 at 5:46 am |
    • He Who Laughs, Lasts!

      Oh, Vicki! You need to get ugly gash on your face fixed! What? That's your mouth? Whoa! I'll bet you can fit a dozen tennis balls in there! Seriously, girl, that's one HUGE mouth! And those blackheads on your nose...and, oh look! Nose hair!

      September 30, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  8. jay

    I think that he\she \it is a dude thats nasty,its freedom of speech!!!!!!

    September 28, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • Johnny

      JAY, making fun of people...to justify your own FAILURES and INSECURITIES.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  9. I am indian

    My religion says that you should not wear any cloths, prophet of my religion recently died, I also have a holy book of my religion, which says do not lie, harm anyone, be a good person.
    do I need any approval before I practice my religion, do I have to prove my religion before I practice, my holy book further describe that you must carry a gun in 21st century because there is too much crime in this world, but it doesn’t say much about if I migrate to another country these rules will still apply,
    Or I should modified them according to my comfort, like talking in English which is not my religious language wearing pants or not, having education or not, standing in line or not, I am so confused what should I do can someone help me,
    should I go back to country where my religion originated or back in time ask my guru questions about western world confusion, or just decide by myself what suites me, or preach other develop country that you guys are wrong be peaceful.

    September 28, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • ohiasia

      My advice: Get your question properly transcribed into coherent English and ask it again. I read it three times and have no idea what you're asking.

      September 30, 2012 at 5:48 am |
  10. Manjit SIngh

    balpreet – you are a very strong, inspirational young woman. I sincerely admire yout devotion to the SIkh faith.

    September 28, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
  11. End Religion

    I don't understand what all the hubbub is about. The facial hair is fine. It's the name that must change. Balpreet, please consider "Jane Smith" as your new, more sensible name.

    September 28, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Sunny

      What a Eurocentric thing to say. There's nothing at all wrong with her name. There are at least half a dozen Balpreet Kaurs on FaceBook, so it's a common name among her people or in her land of origin. "Jane Smith" is probably a bizarre name in her land of origin.

      September 29, 2012 at 7:57 am |
    • 1question

      Jane Smith sounds like the most boring name in the world. Maybe she should change her favorite ice cream flavor to vanilla, drive a Toyota Camry, and become an insurance sellsman, too. I'd take Balpreet any day of the week over Jane Smith.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • ohiasia

      Obviously "End Religion" was joking. She should change her name instead to Hanniyah Safady.

      September 30, 2012 at 5:50 am |
  12. Andrew

    She is beautiful on the outside too, you guys have it all wrong

    September 28, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • Amit

      Yes!

      September 29, 2012 at 2:07 am |
  13. cholcobo3

    uhhh... good luck finding a man who is attracted to that.

    September 28, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Me

      She's intelligent, wise and classy. Maybe it is about time men were smart enough to chase women like that. They'd probably lose less money in divorce court.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • cryofpaine

      @Me
      Are you kidding? The only reason they'd lose less money in divorce court is because a woman like that would be too smart to marry them in the first place. Too many cavemen running around out there. Fortunately, there are still a few of us who are more evolved.

      September 29, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • sas

      She can look any way that she wants to and we can say ugh! The lengths a person will go to for religion. Perhaps she can "find herself" in a beauty salon!

      September 29, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  14. cami100k

    Wow, excellent response Balpreet Kaur. Carry on sister.

    September 28, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  15. Harpreet

    What a spirit !

    September 28, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  16. 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 6:26 pm |
  17. ted

    ""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."

    Magazines and other media can't do it, I don't get how internet is immune from common decency.

    September 28, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  18. Darshan

    Proud of you Balpreet Kaur..you handled this with so much grace and calmness..this is all a result of the best of upbringing and education. You are a class apart and a lot of these uneducated and ill mannered people will never even come close to understand your beliefs as they never had the upbringing like you–you did the right thing-just ignore them and let them think to their hearts content that they are the best in the world;)

    September 28, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  19. jat

    Sorry TX Red – unable to post longer reply.

    September 28, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  20. basketcase

    People are just now getting upset about pictures of others posted on the internet without permission? This isn't exactly new. There are plenty of websites dedicated to posting stupid pictures of other people, and I highly doubt the subjects of those pictures have been asked in most cases.

    September 28, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
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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.