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. Daniel

    If we see that in the picture, just imagine what's waiting downtown.

    September 27, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  2. Shane

    Thank god this is not a photo of her ass.

    September 27, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center

      Shane, it IS a photo of her a.s.s. You do NOT want to see her face.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  3. truth be told

    Shave and a haircut two bits.

    September 27, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • Jerry

      Or preparing for the Bearded Lady in the Circus!

      September 27, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  4. Reality


    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, dividend or capital gains on these investments making his Interfaith Core more of a tax-free investment company than a "non-profit". guidestar.org.

    September 27, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  5. Isma'il

    Poor excuse for not taking care of your health and appearance

    September 27, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • clo


      September 27, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  6. TopCat

    ok so she's very beautiful inside. i'm still not touching her. sorry..

    September 27, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Don't worry

      I really doubt she would even want to be touched by a shallow person like you.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  7. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    September 27, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • clo

      Agreed. Neither Athiesm nor religion are healthy.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Chris

      Shut up Meg. . .

      September 27, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Theen Allah Fat Mullah (the original hinduism source.....)

      Beautiful story.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Theen Allah Fat Mullah (the original hinduism source.....)

      sorry wrong location.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • HeavenSense

      Hi Prayerbot.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • TrueAmerican

      I would love to see one of these COWARD liberal atheists make a comment about Islam... So tell us – what do you think of Mohammad atheists?

      September 28, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • TrueAmerican

      These atheists are so hypocritical – they will put down Christians but 'respect' radical terrorist Islamists and their decapitating ways. I would like to see just one of you comment on Islam.. Is Islam a sham too? Lets see if we have one brave atheist out there.. Cowards

      September 28, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Joe

      Wanna know this Atheists position on Islam and Mohammed? If someone is so shallow in their faith that they can't handle some cartoon or any kind of criticism to their barbaric ways, they truly have no faith. The idea that Mohammed is this untouchable figure is ridiculous. Extremist Muslims represent the worst of humanity in the middle east with their acts of barbarism. They should be ashamed of themselves. Allah is no more real than any other god that people have claimed exist. Oh, by the way....Yahweh, God, Allah....All the same diety. Islam, Christianity and Judaism all follow the same god. Abrahamic religions and all.

      Try again you ridiculous Christians who think you're oppressed...Whether you're Christian, a Muslim, Jew, Pagan...whatever..Don't push your childish beliefs around for people who don't believe in the adult Santa Claus. I'm not afraid of you or your invisible god, so I will call all of them out for being the ridiculous people that they are.

      October 25, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @TrueAmerican (yea right)

      How about this.

      Islam, like the other two major Abrahamic religions, is a sham, untrue, and based on idiotic, primitive, mysoginistic, evil doctrines from a roving band of thugs. Any good accomplished by these religions is in spite of their doctrines, not because of it.

      October 25, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  8. jiggler

    i would pay to be near her gate in the airport just so that i can enjoy looking at people's reaction..lol

    September 27, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  9. Mike

    Considering some of the responses here, and what was on the original thread with the picture, I have to really admire her calm acceptance of the whole thing. Regardless of what anyone else thinks, she accepts herself. That, folks, is to be admired, regardless of what you think of the aesthetics.

    September 27, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Don't worry

      I am surprised these idiots didn't take anything from the article and her response...

      September 27, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
  10. Bev McMullan

    In today's world where the emphasis is on external beauty and not the beauty from within...this young lady is refreshing. After reading what she says about herself I can say that she is truly beautiful!

    September 27, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  11. Lauren

    For all of you who are asserting that Sikhs don't have to keep facial hair or wear hair coverings, here's this:

    "Sikhs are not to use razors or any other such devices on their bodies from the time of birth, for they do not cut their hair from any part of their bodies. In order to keep hair neat and clean, Sikhs roll the hair on the top of their head. The hair is then covered by different types of turbans." http://www.realsikhism.com/index.php?subaction=showfull&id=1248364871&ucat=7

    September 27, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  12. Lanfear

    I work with a girl like that... she has thick facial hair and shaves it. Some times she doesn't shave it and it's much more noticable then (obviously it becomes a pain in the butt after a while).
    It's not entirely uncommon for women to have facial hair. The only difference with this woman is that she doesn't shave it.
    Personally, I wax or shave my upper lip "moustache" about once a week! It's not that noticable anyways, but it just bugs me. I've been doing it since I was 13 and never even thought anything of it.

    September 27, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  13. Portland tony

    There are millions of men who would buy that facial hair if only to get it implanted on their bald craniums. AH! vanity.

    September 27, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • DeeCee1000

      I hope she body-slams the guy that took her photo when they meet; THAT would make a great photo!

      September 27, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      DeeCee and the guy who took the photo appear to have a couple of things in common.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      On second thought – my apologies to the guy who took the photo.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  14. Artaud

    Ms. Kaur,
    I kind of hope you're not reading these comments; the levels of open racism are truly horrifying. I don't know much about Sikhs, although I did get to met one chap when I was a kid and his wisdom and peacefulness stunned me. Please know (and I think you do!) we're (non-Sikhs) not all that stupid. You gave a beautiful response and it gave me my smile for the day. Sending you many good thoughts.

    September 27, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • J R Brown

      What is horrifying is that people are too stupid to understand the difference between "racism" and "bigotry" when they're on their soapboxes....being a Sikh is not a race, it's a religion so therefore there is no issue of racism here.

      It's morons like you who think not liking muslims is "racist" when it's not....it's not liking people who live by the moral code of what we would today consider a mass murdering pedophile.

      I don't have any issues with Sikhs....I detest Muslims. That may make me a "bigot" but it does not make me a racist. As an atheist, I am sure there are plenty of people who don't like my "religion"...

      September 27, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  15. jiggler

    she must have made a scene near the restrooms..lol...awkward..

    September 27, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  16. Mke

    nothing wrong with taking pictures of strangers, unless you're in a state with right of publicity!

    September 27, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Portland tony

      Try taking a picture of my grandkids without permission and doctors will be exploring your bowels for what was your smartphone.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • ME II

      I may be wrong, but I don't think taking someone's picture is illegal. If you gain from it in some tangible way, there can be legal issues, with using someone else's image, but just taking the picture without audio and without invading "privacy", such as bathrooms, dressing rooms, etc. is not a legal issue.
      Otherwise, every bank with ATMs, convenience store, gas station, and police department, would be sued out of business.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  17. Uday

    That's so hot! lol

    September 27, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  18. lilymunster

    My only question is: How the heck did she grow all that hair? She must be taking some testostorone or something. Not even my grandmas goatee is that hairy! WOW!

    September 27, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  19. dirtypantieslover

    sikh women, in general, are very feminine. a very soft face, obviously no facial hair, with beautiful makeup. this is DISGUSTING. why would a man want to kiss a woman with a mustache? are you out of your mind?? it's not intolerance. it's just plain old nasty.

    September 27, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Artaud

      Really, with that on-line name??

      September 27, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  20. Sxray

    "Dude looks like a lady!"

    September 27, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • J R Brown

      Way to have it exactly backasswards....

      September 27, 2012 at 6:36 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.