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. "Better Together"

    As stated on her shirt, her beard and the boobies go well together XD

    September 27, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Brian

      WOW! LMAO!

      September 28, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  2. bill

    sorry but thats straight up nasty!

    September 27, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Katla1

      Newsflash: she doesn't care what you think and she's a better person than you are.

      September 27, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Chaddi Singh

      I agree Bill! Thats the truth.
      Hairy is scary.

      September 28, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  3. JH1

    This just in: CNN.com editor replaced by reddit bureau chief.

    In all seriousness, there is no point in coming to CNN.com anymore when it consists of 20% Apple articles *cough*ads*cough*, 78% reddit front page from 2 days ago where everything has already been discussed to death, and 2% exclusive content.

    The 24 hour news cycle can't even keep up with the 24 hour news cycle anymore.

    September 27, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  4. Tutu

    Seems to be a nice looking girl. But people don't seem to understand that, religion is just a hoax.
    It is just man made. There is no GOD any where. Some people get so convinced by the rule
    of their religion that, they are ready to mess up their looks for some religious rule set down by
    some guru hundreds of year back. It is such a waste of one's life. She should go ahead and shave
    all those facial hair and enjoy her life like a normal girl, instead of living this way.

    September 27, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • waco

      Shaving is not the answer. Laser or electrology is.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • dupinder

      humans r born with hair, i think cutting your hair is messing up with ur body , isnt it ?

      September 27, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
  5. Smelly

    I reserve the right to stop using deodorant! After all, it's all about MY freedom of expression. Forget about the other 300 million people in this country.

    September 27, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  6. derp

    Dude has nice t i t s.

    September 27, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  7. 24 Hour Crisis Center

    Imagine what the hair on her hoohah must look like. Granny panties for this dude.

    September 27, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • You're a 24 Hour Dumba$$

      You are pretty much the biggest troll here. Congratulations on showing that you are an ignorant idiot, who doesn't know anything about religion, people or anything past grade 3 reading comprehension.

      September 28, 2012 at 2:07 am |
    • 24 Hour on to something

      I was thinking...chest hair, back hair, leg hair, buttcheek hair...funky if nothing else...YUCK!

      September 28, 2012 at 7:22 am |
  8. xab


    September 27, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  9. Siara Delyn

    Inspirational in every possible respect. Good, kind people relating to each other.

    September 27, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center

      Am I the only one who can see that she is obviously a butch lesbian hiding behind religion?? Jeesh, wake up.

      September 27, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • 24 Hour on to something

      @24 Hour Crisis Center...no you are not!

      September 28, 2012 at 7:23 am |
  10. tomtom

    hmm...i didn't know sikh women were required to wear turbans. this seems really strange. perhaps she is doing it gain attention?

    September 27, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • Katla1

      Hey, guess what? She doesn't care what you think.

      September 27, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • A in Pa

      I too, am confused by the turban on a woman.

      September 27, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • yourstruli

      Sikh women are not required to wear a turban. They are not prevented from wearing one either.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • sam

      Baptized do, search for amritdhari.

      Also Sikhs are the last people of earth to seek attention, I am not one but I know about all religions

      September 27, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
  11. gaucho420

    This woman is guarrenteeing herself a disrupted life by her facial hair, based on a religiong...she can't eve hope to prove and has to have "faith" to beleive in. All that trouble for nothing. I'm glad I'm an athiest...and not her huband or boyfriend. This is the equivalent of a guy having breasts...any women want that guy?

    September 27, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • derp

      I can virtually guarantee that she does not have a boyfriend.

      September 27, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  12. Fiona

    I adore her response! She outclassed everyone, including the creep who first posted the photo. Rampant cell phone photography is the reason I stopped using the locker room at my gym. There is no private area to change clothes, and I constantly saw people using their homes in there (even though it is prohibited). I don't want to turn up starkers on the Internet.

    September 27, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Fiona

      ...should be : using their phones in there...

      September 27, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  13. Mr Chihuahua

    Would hit lol!

    September 27, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  14. mynamewas

    Eboo Patel of the Interfaith Core (a facade to hide the fanatacism of Islam behind and distract people) and his fellow muslims could also learn a lot from this Sikh woman about reacting without threats of violence or burninng or decapitating people.

    September 27, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • tomtom

      there are 1.4 billion muslims in the world.

      September 27, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • pmnewb

      Patel is a Hindu last name, idiot.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Dez

      No, Patel is a Gujarati/Indian surname and whilst most Gujaratis are Hindu there is a large Moslem minority still bearing the last name; descendants of those that were converted with the Islamic conquests centuries ago.

      September 27, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
  15. Dolphintam


    September 27, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  16. CaliJohn23

    Female sikhs are not required to wear a turban or maintain facial hair. She must be a dike

    September 27, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • dupinder

      yes in sikhism both men and women are required but due to modern influence and critics , most of them dont wear, but few brave ones are still there

      September 27, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
  17. asingh

    I am Sikh male and Sikhism does not require women to wear a turban or maintain facial hair. I have no problem if someone wants to do it but it is not a core part of Sikhism. I know certain Sikh sects in the USA promote it but in India you will not find Sikh women like these.

    September 27, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • LSingh

      I do not which "sects" your talking about but if you follow Sikhism, there are no sects. Its either your a Sikh or Not – a sikh is a simply a follower of Guru Granth Sahib Jee (the holy scripture). As for as keeping a turban, one should study the history of Guru Gobind Singh Jee and Khalsa ... there is no males do this in Sikhism or females do that!

      September 27, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Don't worry

      asingh, there are no sects within sikhism as stated above. And you are so very misinformed , there are baptized orthodox sikh women in india as well...just because YOU did not happen to see any, does not mean they dont exist (idiot)...

      September 27, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  18. Jim45

    Her turban looks dirty

    September 27, 2012 at 5:26 pm |

      you are a disgraceful human being

      September 28, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  19. David

    well for me it is another example of how the internet can be a force for good. Even though the original poster's intentions were not good it elicited a dialouge about not only being accepting of other people but also what is appropriate to post on the internet. Good for Balpreet Kaur!...and shame on some of the knucklehead posters...

    September 27, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  20. Really?

    Her business, but gross looking nonetheless.

    September 27, 2012 at 5:22 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.