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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. getmeinhere

    I disagree with this woman's religious outlook. By the same token why bother showering or washing your clothes? The fact is that taking care of your appearance is both something we do for ourselves and for others. If you go around looking like trash it suggests that you don't consider other people worth looking nice for. This is why you don't go to a job interview looking like a slob.

    I get that it's her religion, so she can fall back on that excuse for why she won't reconsider her point of view. But if this belief came from any origin besides religion, she'd be laughed at for holding it. Well, her religious beliefs are not sacrosanct to me, so I won't treat them as such. I personally suspect that her religious views are informed by her personal worldview as much as the other way around. If she expects the world to react poorly to her appearance, she's more likely to hold a belief that appearance doesn't matter, and find justification in that in religion. After all, not every Sikh goes around ungroomed.

    September 27, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • dupinder

      sikhs comb their hair 2 times a day and wash it regularly, how does shaving your hair makes you more cleaner ? Most of the girls have long hair, does that mean they are more dirtier ?

      September 27, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
  2. TESSDE3

    Any religion that demands you do something this stupid is not a religion but a joke. Why do women in these religions allow some "made up" terrorist God command what they do while the men can do whatever they want with whomever they want. And they are proud of it? Gimme a break, it looks disgusting so sick of the comments of people saying "you go girl, your beautiful, good for you" oh ya beautiful? Seriously come on it's unattractive no matter how you look at it, and if she is a true female why can't she have her hair down instead of in a turban? oh right the mighty terrorist God told her to do that and she said yes dear God whatever you want. YUCK!

    September 27, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Just Me

      While I do agree with you, many people have been and will be lead by Satan, even those who believe in God and are not spiritually careful.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • Gregg

      The person in the picture is a Sihk, which to my knowledge are not currently related to terroristic activities.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Io

      U r obviously to ignorant to know (or google) what a Sikh is

      September 27, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • sk8r

      You wont get it, you are too shallow. you will stay beautiful only long as mascara and your clothes look good on you.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • Singh

      Actually if you actually read more about Sikhs, you may realize how false your statements are. The turban and equality that the religion was based from is quite progressive for that time and continues to be a very passionate religious article of faith for the Sikhs, men or women, that choose to wear it.

      Here is a website for you to check out and gain more knowledge: http://www.saldef.org/learn-about-sikhs/

      "terrorist God" – seriously? That almost is comical that someone would think that but scary at the same time that so much is needed to be done to educate our fellow humans.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • Io

      Tessde3- letting ur hair down? is that how u "know true females"? feeling sorry for u

      September 27, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • MIchelle

      You know that this woman is not a Muslim, right? Please in the future, read the article before responding to it.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • dupinder

      Sikhism originated in India in 15th century as saintly community but later in 17th century got converted to warrior saint religion because of oppresion and forceful conversion by mughal (muslim) emperors, and one of the main reason why sikhs statrted wearing turban was because during those times only muslim kings were allowed to wear it , so sikhs fearlessly accepted it and challenged the mughal empire. I hope it helps my friend .

      September 27, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • SikhAmerican

      What a stupid comment ! You are calling GOD a "terrorist" ? Shame on you. GOD is one for everybody.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  3. Jesse

    She kinda looks like Ali G.

    September 27, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  4. Just Me

    Religion is good – There are many non-Catholic Christians. I am not sure if you knew this, but many of us lived based on the Word of God that brings faith and works together.

    September 27, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • Religion is good

      You said you were against religion but then state you're a Christian. Isn't that a religion? What do you have against Catholics?

      September 27, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • Religion is good

      Catholic charities are among the best. You should consider that.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Just Me

      Religion is good – Again, there are many non-Catholic Christians in America. I do not believe nor accept the teachings of Catholics. They do not teach people according to the Word of God and has taught false doctrines that has lead many to turn their backs to Christ and have become Atheists or Agnostics. How do I know, I have met many of them.

      Religion is man trying to reach God, but fails. It destroys, misleads, lies, kills, steals, and destroys. It was religion that crucified Christ, not the Jews as many believe.

      True Christianity is God, reaching out to men, women, and child through a RELATIONSHIP in Christ Jesus.

      JOHN 3:16 "FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD, THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, WHOSOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM, SHALL NO PARISH, BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE"

      Jesus even said that not everyone who says LORD, LORD, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who have done the will of My Father.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Just Me

      I clearly know that Catholics Charities has poured out more then any other religion, but works without faith is dead, friend.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Religion is good

      Does part of that belief come from the fact that Catholic schools preach evolution? There is quite a bit of evidence for that.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • Religion is good

      You do know that Catholics teach faith, right?

      September 27, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Just Me

      Religion is good – I have to disagree there. I have family who claims to be Catholics and their lives are so complicated that they claim to have faith and demonstrate the opposite. They are members of a Catholic church.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • Religion is good

      They must not be good Catholics, then. The Catholic church teachs faith.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • Religion is good

      http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05752c.htm

      September 27, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • Just Me

      Religion is good – Evolution is contrary to the Word of God as many atheists and agnostics has been blinded by it. My church doesn't believe in it and we stand on the Word of God, not of men.

      My family have good hearts and I have seen many Catholics with the same issue.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • Just Me

      Religion is good – I really appreciate your kindness, but I rather allow the Holy Spirit guide me.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • Religion is good

      More faith teachings: http://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/teachframes.htm

      I don't think the bible is to be taken literally in all aspects. Speaking out against evolution is not speaking out against the bible but against common sense.

      How would you explain carbon dating if you believe in the literal interpretation of the bible?

      September 27, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  5. Peter

    KILL IT WITH FIRE!

    September 27, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • Just Me

      YOUR MOM SHOULD DONE THE SAME THING WITH HERSELF WHEN SHE FOUND OUT SHE WAS PREGNANT OF YOU.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  6. Evolve

    Looks like my facial hair in high school, boy was I happy when my moustache, sideburns and goatee finally all connected lol

    Seriously though, making fun of how someone looks is something a child would do, people need to grow up.

    September 27, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • Just Me

      Very true indeed, but many of these people believe in evolution, no wonder.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • She is fair game to make fun of because she is lying. She is a lesbian in the closet hiding behind her religion. Get a clue.

      ~timetravel

      September 27, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  7. julzrael

    What a beautiful person. Her outlook is so positive, and it makes her religion look good too. Awesome 🙂

    September 27, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • She looks icky just like her religion. Bull dike hiding. She should be honest and be who she really is. liar!!

      ~ burgertime

      September 27, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  8. i_know_everything

    ok, time to throw up

    September 27, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • Just Me

      I would love to see your picture so I can throw up too. Beauty comes within, something that many trolls, like you, on here, are far from ever having.

      Okay, time to throw up, you people disgust me.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  9. d

    only if people were this understanding with muslim women and their headscarves. No one asks their opinion on it, everyone just assumes they're being oppressed by their husbands, fathers, or brothers and such. I know muslim women who are proud to wear the headscarf, the hijab, and they get made fun of everyday, no one cares to stand up for them. Those that stood up for this women, that's great for you, now why don't you help there people being made fun of and having comments thrown at. that would make you an even better person. it's hard to find people like that these days.

    September 27, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • Jenny L

      I agree with you 100%. It's sad that so many cultures are being picked on because of their choice of clothing, beliefs, etc...

      September 27, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
  10. beardstories

    I'm so glad to see another proud bearded woman out there in the world. I'm a woman with a beard, and I've found that people almost always respond positively, if they respond at all. I've been recording my stories here, for those who are curious what it's like to be a bearded woman in the US. http://beardstories.wordpress.com/ and on twitter at @beard_stories

    September 27, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Where is a picture of you with your beard??

      ~stuntman

      September 27, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • i_know_everything

      lmao

      September 27, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  11. Jenny L

    This woman is a true inspiration. I applaud her for not allowing her body image to get in the way of her faith and goals in life. I also applaud her for being so gracious towards the negative comments she read. You are a beautiful soul, inside and out.

    September 27, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center

      You are a hairy dike. Admit the truth and come out of the closet chicken.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center

      Sorry Jenny, not you. I don't know if you are hairy or a dike. I meant her. She is obviously a hairy dike. No-brainer.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Jenny L

      Nope, I'm not but that was an awful thing to say. You can have any opinion you want, I just choose not to agree.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • d

      do you believe that of muslim women as well. they wear the head scarf and loose cloths to protect themselves fom prying eyes. So people can be focused on what they have to say instead of how their bodies look. And almost all guys can attest to the fact that if they see a beautiful women, they will be attracted to how the women looks, not what she has to say.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • Jenny L

      D, I respect all women and truly believe that everyone has a voice. I can't imagine looking at anyone (Muslim women included) and disrespecting their choice of clothing and views. I wouldn't do that face to face or behind a computer.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  12. Dr. Donnel Johnson

    This reminds me very much of the Gospel of Mary which touches on female facial hair. In it we read, "...and Mary was as a man, yet not in form or function. She knelt before our Lord with a face full as with any man..."

    September 27, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • WhatIsWrongWithYou

      Your reading comprehension alone sucks – it says "not in form"....therefore, it's not indicating any physical characteristics....

      PS, we don't want your flying spaghetti monster tyvm....

      September 27, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Dr. Donnel Johnson

      @WhatIsWrongWithYou

      Funny you should say that. Many of us who have thoroughly studied the Gnostic Gospels feel that this translation may not be accurate.

      We also base our understanding of Mary's unsightly appearance on this, from the Timothy Gospel, "...she was in shadow as a man, and as a man we took her. Alas her body was as a woman and there was much surprise."

      September 27, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
  13. ari

    i have never heard of a woman who is able to grow a beard, regardless of whether or not she grooms her facial hair. this lady might want to go to a specialist if she hasn't already. she might have polycystic ovary syndrome, which can cause this and far more serious issues.

    September 27, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  14. Bob

    Sikhs are great. There should be beauty associated to just letting it all hang out for y'all. Oooh, yea girl lol

    September 27, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  15. She is clearly a butch dike in the closet hiding behind her religion.

    ~common sense

    September 27, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • Religion is good

      That's not nice.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • Just Me

      YOU ARE JUST A STUPID M0R0N HIDING BEHIND YOUR RELIGION OF ATHEISM POSTING A HATEFUL COMMENT THAT ONLY PROVES HOW BITTER YOU ARE.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • How is that hateful? It is SO obvious. Get a clue.

      ~commen sense

      September 27, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  16. Ryan

    Ethnic women are hairy – I live in Vancouver and see this sort of thing all the time.

    September 27, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • Another Lyin' Ryan?

      What an ignorant post. I've seen many extremely hairy, blonde Scandinavian women – possibly because of the cold weather – it's just not as obvious from a distance because their hair is light. Also, many Italian women for example. I don't then assume that about all women from those countries.

      Vancouver has lots of East Asians too – last I checked they are considered ethnics and many of the women are usually practically hairless. Quit stereotyping whole groups.

      September 28, 2012 at 3:09 am |
  17. Religion is good

    Be nice everyone.

    September 27, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Religion is bad. Bust that dude's balls everyone.

      ~scary

      September 27, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • Just Me

      Atheism = Religion

      The worsts religion there is in America.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Religion is good

      @Religion is bad. Bust that dude's balls everyone.

      What have I done to you? I am a great guy.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • I didn't mean you Religion is good, I was referring to the dude in the photo.

      ~scary~

      September 27, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • Religion is good

      Oh, my bad.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
  18. fed up

    simply put....OINK OINK

    September 27, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Just Me

      Looking in the mirror?

      September 27, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    September 27, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • HeavenSense

      Hi Prayer-bot.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:42 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!

      September 27, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • Religion is good

      @HeavenSense

      Prayer bot?

      Is that anything like Reverend Lionel Preacherbot

      http://futurama.wikia.com/wiki/Reverend_Lionel_Preacherbot

      September 27, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Just Me

      Jesus – I have proof of the prayers in my life has been answered. Have you ever prayed with an humble heart?

      September 27, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Religion is good

      @Just Me

      I also feel that my prayers have been answers but advise how you can prove that? Religion is a faith not fact.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Just Me

      Jesus – So because children has died to the parents who believe in God, prayers doesn't work???

      How many of these parents would you know that has given up in God after the fact? There probably are much more parents who has remained faithful to God then those who gave up. DEATH, my friend, has no respect of people and you don't have to believe in God to understand that.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • Just Me

      Religion is good – Religion isn't what Christ even preached about and He has NOTHING to do with it to begin with, therefore, religion isn't good for anyone, but, A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD THROUGH CHRISTis. Religion isn't faith, it misleads.

      Btw, I am a Christian.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • Just Me

      Religion is good – To those close to you, proof can be given, but to those here, I will have to list a long things that I have witness and the miracles that I got, but even then, the nonbeliever will never accept it as the they've been blinded by their father, Satan.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • Religion is good

      @Just me

      You confused me. So you think religion is bad. Why? Why are you then a Christian.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
  20. MBA Matt

    Trolls are everywhere.

    If anyone of you who are making smart-a$$ remarks are over the age of 13, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

    September 27, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Towelie

      You wanna get high MBA Matt? Have you ever got a BJ from a towel?

      September 27, 2012 at 6:46 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.