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. caprigirl

    is she hurting anyone? she is standing in line, busy using her phone. what idiot would take photograph of a stranger and fun of that person when that person is not even looking or talking to you? people have small eyes, big noses, acne skin, are fat or skinny, tall or short, handicapped or not, college educated or not-–EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT! she is a religious person obviously by her headdress-turban, so its just sad that we have to be talking about all this and are trying to bring understanding in all this....big deal she doesnt remove her hair, i've seen women with hairier arms than her face.... this is so dumb that we have to be having a conversation in 2012 about someone having facial hair. she has confidence and pride, and she's not bothering anyone.... she is being herself. she is beautiful.

    October 12, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Will

      I agree with you Caprigirl. I despise people taking photos in public places and then publishing it without their permission even if it is something innocuous as eating out, walking around or just standing and staring at something. They also tape people and use it later when they are running for office. All terrible invasion of privacy and cruel. Kaur is a brave young woman and one who should be admired for dealing with this graciously. I am not big on facial or body hair...though I have little of it – even that I like removed. But everybody has their preference. I am sure there are men and women who will find her attractive. She might also be an inspiration to those women in this country who are obsessed with body, boobs and butts...especially when they are young. I can imagine women in their 50s taking time to go out and do something with their looks. But at 20 and 30? What the heck are our gals going invent with so much shopping, shoes and satin underwear. And how are they going to do up the political ladder with this much shallow focus. Need Kaur to go on nationa tour to talk about "beauty" in moderation, balance and as personal.

      October 21, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  2. Bobbaft

    Just imagine what jungle is going on down below.

    October 12, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  3. easye

    beautiful story and a beautiful person...I smiled at some of the comments. At the end, though I got more and more choked up...(lumps in your throat hurt a bit).

    personally this all reminds me of a Taoist koan:

    October 11, 2012 at 6:43 am |
  4. Anung

    Its one word like Omarion, its just prob a typo. I see alot of ppl do that w his name. Anyway I saw the myspace post & been wintiag to see the video. Looks like dancing will be crazy good and smooth like buttah. Im too excited that the ILLEST Wordspit is in there too!

    October 9, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
  5. caren fox

    II truly think this woman is beautiful and should serve as an example for many. If only our schools that claim all these "bullying" problems could have their kids take a page from her playbook the world would be a better place!

    October 9, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  6. Karmjit Singh

    dear deepi, I have seen a similar girl with beard in India in our own town Kotkapura. and if i do not illusion, she must be the same . my own Bhuaji is amritdhari and she too has beard on her face

    October 8, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  7. Capicornio

    Dear Libby,Congratulations on your new website and blog! Although we've known one anoehtr for many years and have worked together on numerous stories you as writer, I as publicist I didn't realize the scope of your writing career until now! The website does it justice and I know it will lead to many successful connections.I'm also delighted that you chose EF Design Austin as your web designer. Roberta Edgar and I could not have been more pleased with Adrian when we created our Words e0 la Mode site (www.wordsalamode.com)! He was a joy to work with, as I know you discovered.And, as president of Independent Writers of Southern California, I'm also pleased that you included IWOSC's website link (www.iwosc.org).Continued success with your writing, Libby.Cheers,Flo SelfmanPR Consultant;Proofreader/Copyeditor;President, IWOSC

    October 8, 2012 at 2:20 am |
    • cleareye1

      Nice try.

      October 13, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  8. barbara grace

    Really the general public would be very very surprised to know HOW MANY women would actually look very hairy in the face if they did't remove the offending hair!! I'm blonde but have had a lot of facial hair all my life. I don't have any major health issue or endocrine problem, it's just genetic. It's very embarrassing and i have to admire anyone who has the courage to let it 'go'. I sat next to a lady on a plane (she was obviously a female) to San Francisco last year, and she had heavy obvious facial hair. I remember feeling shocked and wondering if I could ever let mine go and face the criticism/scrutiny. Mine wouldnt show from a distance if it grew, but up course absolutely would.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      I'm not sure I understand how something that is a natural part of your body is embarrassing.

      I understand not liking the look. I understand the desire to remove it. But why be embarrassed by it?

      October 5, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  9. Prema

    This is beautiful. If only everyone could realize that we are all connected. This thought helps me remember to be compassionate. Peace, good people.

    October 5, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • luckylei

      well said.

      October 10, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  10. Noire

    I can't believe someone would just post a photo of someone else like that, that's incredibly rude and thoughtless. Though, I'm glad the woman helped learn the truth about such things. Also, why are people assuming she's transgendered? There are genetic quirks that often blur the line between gender, and why are people saying that she dosn't want men to like her? Such a biased society we live in.

    October 5, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  11. Dharm

    nobody has a right to mock about others, you are judged by your actions and deeds, it's not possible to know about every faith in this world, but how ignorant can human mankind be especially after innocent Sikhs killed in Oak creek Wisconsin which was very widely covered. Sikhs are very peaceful religious minority and with great religious intolerance

    October 4, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
  12. White Witch of The West

    SERIOUSLY!?! Is she hurting anyone else in any fashion? Her life, her choice in every aspect of the word. Society dictates what a woman or man 'should' or 'should not' look like or what to wear or what not wear. It is your own bias that make you so blind you can't seem to look beyond your own noses on your faces. I don't know about her religious practices and I certainly do not walk in her foot steps every day of her life. The intolerance of some one that is 'different' here with all the threads of negative comments sicken me. Your path of judgement will just follow with your procreation. I think she is a beautiful person-period. That's my opinion. That may not be your opinion. But does that give you the right to mock, make fun, cast stones at her religion, her appearance, even down to her gender because she doesnt fit into your 'standard'? This is American. America is the melting pot of every kind of ethncity, religion, traditions, etc. She is comfortable with who and what she is. You are the ones that are uncomfortable with who and what she is. Get over yourselves! Take a long hard look in your mirrors, take a reality check, and stop putting your own negative perspectives on every one else as the 'normal/appropriate' behavior. I wish her good health, positive influences, and a long successful happy life tn come.

    October 4, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
  13. mannydanny34

    She must not want to date men. Her choice.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • raya

      Maybe she wants a man who will love her for who she is and not what she looks like? Women don't do everything they do to please men.

      October 11, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  14. aj

    Ya that's got to be a transgendered person. So it would be a hate crime to harass that person.

    October 2, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  15. Chris

    This "Amannequin" culture we live in makes me sick. If a woman has just one hair on her body outside of her head, everybody gets all disgusted. Nonsense!!! Plastic Surgery on every part of the body...it's like we're all mannequins/shop window dummies, and if a dummy is what you want, a dummy is what you're gonna get. You can have your stepford wives who are all looks and nothing else. I don't care if a woman has hair on her face, under her arms, on her crotch, or on her legs, give me someone with lots of personality, good sense of humour, intelligence and humility and I'm a happy man! Judging by Ms. Kaur's wonderful response, I'll bet she'd be an interesting person to have lunch with, and I envy those who will get that opportunity. Real people...those are the kinds of people I want in my life!

    October 2, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  16. Rob

    Perhaps she has NonClassic Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia

    October 2, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  17. Johnny

    To those Americans who STILL don't know the difference (especially after Wisconsin Temple MURDERS)...this is a Sikh. She is NOT from the Middle East. Her origins are from India.

    October 2, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Ceilo

      "this" is a Sikh? I think "she" is a Sikh and not an object...

      October 4, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  18. Johnny


    THEN, it is easy to make fun of people...to justify their own INTERNAL UGLINESS, FAILURES and INSECURITIES.

    October 2, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  19. CTSadler

    She's never going to find a husband THAT way!

    September 30, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • Truth

      I am sorry you feel that way. Perhaps if you looked for true beauty in people instead of judging them negatively because they don't fit your personal ideal, you would be a much happier person. Balpreet Kaur is obviously at peace with herself. May you find such peace and tranquility in your life. We are all children of God.

      September 30, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Johnny

      You're wrong idiot! Many Sikhs marry THIS way. Doofus.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Johnny

      CTSadler...I doubt you're married too. Geez, I wonder why?

      October 2, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Johnny

      Also, the guy she attracts will NOT be a loser like you. He will be looking at her faith and kindness. YOU will be the one attracting the wrong kind of superficial person, like yourself.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  20. Neha Puri

    I feel really sorry for the lady, I deeply and truly respect her faith in her religion, however at the same time I reject any religion or practice which prohibits a woman to look beautiful... God made woman beautiful and they have all the rights to look beautiful... I believe she is cutting her nails for the same reason she has all the rights to get her facial hairs remove... but I know she wont do that.. her faiths are so deeply rooted that she will justify and convince you that she is doing right... Inner beauty is perfectly all right but what is harm in showing your outer beauty....

    September 30, 2012 at 1:00 am |
    • Truth

      Why do you think she is not beautiful? Do a few facial hairs offend your sensibilities? True beauty comes from within, and not all the makeup or tweezing or shaving or hair gel will help someone with an ugly soul look beautiful. Balpreet Kaur is beautiful because she accepts who she is without having to pretend to be something or someone else.

      September 30, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • georgia

      Why would you judge her reasonings, when you know nothing about them? She has said in other interviews that she used to shave & wax & pluck these hairs because she was self-conscious. She then made the decision to stop, and has been happy with her decision. If she is happy with her decision, she should not have to adjust it for people like you. Women of this religion are not strictly forbidden from removing their hair. Some choose to do so, and some do not.

      September 30, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Kristi

      I'm sorry that you're so shallow and superficial that you can't accept people and love them the way they are.

      September 30, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • Leo

      You are so horribly shallow to try to hold someone else to your artificial standard of beauty. As this woman said, she believes that God made her body just fine the way it is. Removing the hair would be an insult to God's creation. Who are you to say she isn't beautiful?

      October 1, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • Jonathan

      If you believe that "God makes women beautiful," why are you suggesting that this woman change her physical appearance? Do you believe God made a mistake in her case? You are confused.

      October 1, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Johnny

      You're perception of beauty is from some stupid Photo Shopped magazine. You are creating HARM with your opinion. You must have had a tough upbringing....I actually feel sorry for you.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:25 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.