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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. Chris

    Thank goodness its not about a black woman's facial hair. Al and his cronies would've planned for a Million Hair March by this weekend.

    September 28, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • 24 Hour on to something

      Way to throw your sad little racism into an article about religious indifference troll!

      September 28, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  2. Inspires

    I am really disturbed to come on to read this article about my good friend, who in fact, IS a woman whom I attend the Ohio State University with. The fact that there are still such ignorant comments being made, after such poise and grace she has shown, really shows the disgust of our society. If you were to read her entire response, any questions in regards to her "hormones" were already clarified. I wish I had as much courage, heart and grace as this 20 year old woman does. For all of you who sit her and take the time to still criticize such a kind and caring soul-I feel extremely sorry for you.

    September 28, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • Not getting the whole story

      Okay, it's obvious she does have hormonal issues and chooses by religious beliefs not to see a doctor about it, but did see and eye doctor about her failing eyesight. Hormonal imbalances can lead to certain types of cancers in women. if she has a abundance of facial hair and just wants to keep it because her faith teaches not to cut it that's fine, but some are concerned to due educations about hormone issues and cancers, that is not being mean. The parts about lesbianism, and the way she looks is something totally different.

      September 28, 2012 at 8:33 am |
  3. hang3xc

    "this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it?"

    Really? Does she brush her teeth ? Take baths or showers? Wash her hair? Wear clean clothes? Why fuss about it??? Religion is the most ridiculous thing man has ever invented and it's amazing how many people still believe it in this day and age, realistically because they can't face the idea that one day they will cease to exist. Pretending there is some sort of everlasting wonderful afterlife is soooo much more comforting. Incredible

    September 27, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
    • Chris

      Hangxc, you nailed it. These clowns delude themselves into divinity, whereas their whole lives are centered around sensuality. Without it, there is nothing one can experience.

      September 27, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • Chris B

      I am not their religion. But shaving is not a necessity. Brushing your teeth and taking baths and/or showers are for personal hygene. It also helps protect the body from health problems. These problems include decayed teeth, gum disease and body acne. Having a beard and mustache do not cause any health problems. Be considerate and respectful of other people, their beliefs, and their ideas, you obviously never learned these things before.

      September 28, 2012 at 12:14 am |
    • barbara

      It is her belief in faith that has made her so kind and understanding. It is her belief that has given her class and grace. It is her bleief that makes her a good person. Who cares if religion is "real" or not. She's making the world better not worse.

      September 28, 2012 at 12:24 am |
    • hang3xc

      So Barbara,
      Without belief in faith people cannot be kind and understanding, have class and grace, or be a good person??? Can't people make the world better without believing ridiculous things or wearing ridiculous outfits??

      September 28, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • hang3xc

      Chris B,
      No, shaving is not a necessity. But if you are going to "fuss" about your teeth & personal "hygene", wouldn't you spend 60 seconds a day to go all the way and shave so you don't look like a sideshow freak in a circus??? There are some things that people can do nothing about, like deformities & retardation, and I am considerate and respectful of those people, but a bit of facial hair is an easy fix and it's amazing someone would choose to not do anything about it. I suppose she doesn't shave her legs or armpits either? No sense fussing about it. Gross

      September 28, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  4. vdrumin

    It would be a wonderful thing if we all loved each other like GOD loves us for what's on the inside not the outside. But the sad thing is we are not God. We can try to be as close to him as we can humanly be, "human" being the key word. I think a women having a mustash and a beard is going tio cause some backlash, including fear, disgust and pehaps even violence towards them by ignorant. Freedom of religion and expreesion should be protected in this country; however there will always be people who go out of there way to hurt each other because of they are different, that's the face we all need to work on.

    September 27, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
  5. Reality

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

    September 27, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
  6. BigDog

    yeah, you are right, that has to be a dude.

    September 27, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
  7. ohsnap

    Really tacky to make fun of someone. When I read this article I went to look up some information on this woman's religion since I really didn't know much about it. I also went to find pictures of Sikh woman because I didn't know that women wore turbans as well. Out of the many, many pcitures of Sikh women in turbans, she is the only one I saw with facial hair like this. So perhaps she has a hormonal problem. Either way, shame on the person who thought it was cool to make fun of her. Even though I do not agree with her religious beliefs, it takes strength to live what you believe.

    September 27, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
  8. BigDog

    if she has that much hair on her face, can you imagine what she has going on down below.................?!

    Must need electric pruning shears to clean up her noogie.

    September 27, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • CHECKITOUTPPL

      You are all being conned!! That is a hermaphodite (a man) and the person who wrote in and pretended to be the "woman", is sittingback laughing. CNN did not sear adequately, and everyone here is the but of a huge joke.
      I fell for it at first as well. Look into it for yourself if you are unsure.

      September 27, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
  9. BigDog

    She clearly has issues. Most likely, some real self image problems.............what self respecting female would walk around with a bear and side burns. The women I know freak out if they find anything on their face that even resembles a hair.
    If she is looking to attract some confused lesbians, she is right on track.

    September 27, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • reldra

      "Self-respecting woman'? Perhaps she respects herself enough to not care that she grows facial hair. WOW that takes an incredible amount of self respect, poise, charm and security.

      September 27, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
  10. WOT

    It is more about what is on her head then what is on her face. Get real People! MYOB!

    September 27, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
  11. tastycles

    All she had to say was "I just don't like dick that much"

    September 27, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • Avi

      apt and precise

      September 27, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  12. Atheism is Great for Kids and Grown-Ups Too!

    It's really best for all people including children to have an agnostic approach to god, and an atheistic approach to all religion. It keeps things simple for kids, and lets them be all that they can be. They just need to be taught that some things, like all religion, were just made up by salesmen and politicians from long ago. (Yes, charlatan folklore and spam started long before the Bible; what would make you think they hadn't?) And they need to be taught that other things, like God, we really don't know a damn thing about.

    Atheists have strong minds and don't need a religion. Many religious folk have the best intentions. But too often, religious folk run and hide their misdeeds within their religion (and by doing so, they disserve society). And too often, religious folk are easily offended when someone mocks their make-believe characters – and, as we can see they can get really CRAZY!

    Although there are many religious folk with good intentions – some selflessly helping others, religions and religious organizations are, as a whole, just big old clubs – each trying to out do each other and inspiring hate and division (often disguised as love) along the way. The problem is that people too easily buy into religion and don't realize how unfounded it all is. And when they buy into it, they buy into a lot of really old, really weird tenets that are nothing but harmful for the human species.

    Take Christianity, for instance. Just look at all the things that Christians argue about amongst themselves today – abortion, men's and women's roles in the church, celibacy, contraception, acceptance of gays, etc. Most of these issues have their roots in the conflicted, unfounded tenets of early Christianity. Non-Mormons harp on Joseph Smith these days. But we really don't have any more proof at all to believe that Paul, the self-proclaimed "apostle" was anything more than an ordinary man who needed to make up religious "sales literature" to survive and spread his own personal beliefs. And yet a good chunk of the NT is attributed to Paul and accepted by many Christians. And a lot of what he wrote about has to do with many of the issues I mentioned above that have Christians fighting amongst themselves hundreds of years later. It's way too unfounded to argue over.

    Get a good cup of tea, and sit down and collect your thoughts. If you find it helpful to pray to a god, fine. But it is really healthier for the mind to leave behind all the characters that people over the centuries have invented or given powers to, for which there is little or no foundation. Because with those invented characters and powers – that's where division and hate join the little party in your mind. That's where, in your mind, you are inheriting the division and hate from ordinary politicians, lobbyists and salesmen from long ago. My goodness.

    mama kindless.

    September 27, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • know you're a troll parody but still

      Do you have even a *single* grain of understanding of what the Sikh faith actually is, aside from the fact that it's a religion and that apparently makes it automatically evil? Geez.

      September 27, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Ding Dong

      I completely agree with you. An atheist with a good heart is a million times better than a religious bigot.

      September 27, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • mama kindless

      @know you're a troll parody but still: Well you said it – it's a faith and a religion. Nothing good every comes from that. I would not, however, harbor any more contempt for a Sikh than I would a Christian. And I only harbor the kind of contempt that one has when their pet is poopin outside the litter box. You do have to be careful, though. If, say some of the sheep keep eating the poisonous root vegetables, then, next thing you know they are not well, their milk is not well and you are not well.

      September 27, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • Muzzleblast

      Sorry to disappoint you clueless 'Athiests', but you guys just practice another form of religion, so it makes no sense to criticize all religions. If you believe in something greater than yourself then you have a religion....it's simple as that.

      September 27, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • Josh

      Excelent post, Mama! It's not often that well thought out, non-condemning, logical, posts make it to the comments section. You summed up my thoughts almost exactly.

      Be well

      September 27, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • Avi

      @ know Skihism is just another stupid form of religion. and muzzelbalst what if you don't believe in something bigger than yourself? Why does there have to be anything bigger than what you already have? (no pun intended)

      September 27, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • Muzzleblast

      @Avi, people who tried to believe in self have left or are soon to leave this planet. They get quickly depressed and seek exit. We, as humans are designed to believe in something greater than self.

      September 27, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • mama kindless

      @Muzzleblast. Sorry to disappoint, Muzzleblast, but there are many wonderful things to be appreciated in this world besides one's self (without religion). There is the natural world – completely biological and connected. This includes not only a connection to nature, but a connection to others of our species, without religion. So sorry to disappoint, but you harbor one of the biggest misconceptions about atheism. Another misconception is that morals originated with religion and therefore morals can only be achieved through religion. All of that is false. So why rely on something man-made, when you can enjoy and love this world without all that political folklore? OK, clueless Muzz?

      September 28, 2012 at 12:09 am |
    • Fil

      @Muzzle – If it's even possible to cut through your smugness I'd have to say I really have no idea what you're talking about. I do not believe in something 'greater than myself' and I'm perfectly content most of the time. When I'm not content I'm certainly not casting about thinking about such drivel. Thanks for your armchair psychology though. Peace from within, me vs. peace from without, you. You need to think a lot harder and in the meantime I plan to hug my kids, have a nice lunch and start a great weekend. You try to do the same.

      September 28, 2012 at 12:12 am |
    • Muzzleblast

      @mama- you have spirituality, @fil- you have family...all you so called 'Atheists' have some belief system other than self whether you acknowledge it or not. Religion, in every form, is also a belief system other than self. Your perception of reality DEPENDS on your belief system and self-belief leads to self-destruction. This is why clueless 'Atheists' make me laugh.

      September 28, 2012 at 12:24 am |
    • mama kindless

      Muzzleblast said: "Your perception of reality DEPENDS on your belief system . ."

      False, Muzz, my perception is merely acceptance of what is evident, you, know, from the biological senses that we are born with from nature. That is not religion or a belief, because there is nothing that hidden from the senses, there is nothing that an atheist needs to revere or worship (even though it's a natural biological tendency to have appreciation for nature and one another). You are so deluded by religion that you have closed your mind to many more possibilities within the universe than your silly little folklore fables can provide. Laugh all you want. I'm laughing right back at you.

      September 28, 2012 at 12:39 am |
  13. Serene

    It's so funny how all these atheists are screaming on the top of their lungs, trying to prove religion wrong, yet no one can hear them 🙂 *sigh* The ultimate peace you receive when you believe, something they'll never have... hopefully their eyes will open one day! =)

    September 27, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • tastycles

      You are mentally ill.

      September 27, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Bill

      iif you mean peace as in blind ignorance of the serious facts of evolution...then OK have fun with that, I'll be on the ship where I'm not brainwashed from day 1

      September 27, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • rakava

      I don't see this being about religion at all. If she didn't have more than the usual facial hair on a woman would we have even noticed. I for one did not know female Sikhs wore turbans. However, had she been a woman without facial hair in a turban, I don't think anyone would have taken her photo. As much as I object to the hijab, I don't take stealth photos of people in them. I *do* take photos of men over 30 wearing pants hanging off their asses.

      September 27, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • Tia

      How funny that you claim that the no one hears the atheists, yet YOU clearly heard them since you posted about their "screaming". Therefore, your claim that no one hears them is a lie. Please try firing up some brain cells before you post next time.

      September 27, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • mormon moron... see what I did there?

      The only reason they can't hear is because they're deaf to reason.

      September 28, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  14. Ding Dong

    Its none of others' business to pick on some one who looks different than the majority. The guy who posted this online is a low life. Its only up to her current or future partner to worry about. Period.

    September 27, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
  15. william

    Its not OK to take this persons picture and post it for a laugh. YET it is ok to post pictures of people @ walmart and post them on line to be made fun of?

    September 27, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • rakava

      Ridiculous clothing is a choice, that much facial hair on a woman is not. Shaving it would create stubble and she would still draw attention. She can't help how she looks. She does choose to not wear neon tie dyed shorty shorts and a leopard print crop top like the people of Walmart do.

      September 27, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
  16. hello

    As an immigrant to US here are my observations of this country.

    The good:

    If you are here legally, most employers would treat you equal to the white American employees.

    The money here is good.

    Clean air and water is available to every one.

    Most places here are very clean.Law and order is very well maintained.

    Physical assaults are very rare.

    The younger people here are very courteous.

    The bad:

    They consider anything non western as "backward".      
                                                                   
     If you are a male from a non white country, its widely believed that owing to your non western upbringing, you are crude and treat women badly.

    In US its acceptable to openly discriminate against people who have been brought up outside US. For instance its absolutely acceptable to say, men who grow up in Uganda are unkind.However it is NOT  okay to say black people are unkind.

    If you ever get into an argument with a white person,  the old white people around will look at you as if its your fault. The younger white folks will just tolerate you and walk away.

    If you protest against what you perceive as racial discrimination, you are considered to be what they call "playing the race card".

    If you are woman they like you only as long as you pretend to find the flirtatious old white men attractive.

     If you are a Muslim woman, you are likable only as long as you speak against the evils of the Muslim men.

    As a black immigrant from Kenya, the white people "know" that you were born with a smaller brain.

    If you are an Indian man going through a divorce because your wife cheated on you, its not unreasonable to assume that all this happened because you treated her very badly.

    If you are an Indian woman going through a divorce with a white guy, its likely to be attributed to your Indian upbringing that encourages selfishness.

    In US its okay to selectively present facts that demean a minority.  

    In US its cool for Brad Pitt to date someone 11 years younger. But if you are from a brown skinned nation, with a wife 11 years younger, it is invariably seen as a forced arranged marriage. 

    In US a white man can treat all Chinese men badly and still not be a racist as long as he is friends with a pretty Chinese woman.

    In US white people try to get you to say things you wouldn't normally say by coaxing and encouraging you to say that. For instance they might come up to you and say something like "women are supposed to stay home and cook for real men". In a light joking moment you might add something to it. They would then use this as ammunition against your culture.

    White people happily accept something bad they read about your non western culture without any further investigation. But if its something nice, they will not rest until they poke holes in that story.

    US has a jury system where many old white racially biased people decide your future based on their opinion of your character. (Mike Tyson was sent to prison because a white jury found him unlikable)

    The unwritten rule of the land is, its okay to mete out inhumane treatment to immigrants. If they don't like it, they can leave.

    Human right violations are not violations as long as the white media power approves of it.

    Most white people are very indifferent to a colored person's suffering.

    September 27, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • hello to you

      Yep! You are absolutely correct

      September 27, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • grist

      Wow. What a racist post! You are all about prejudging people while criticizing others about prejudice.

      September 27, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • Marina

      Like one of my coworker from Spain usted to say: three are only two types of Americans- regular red necks and red necks with money. Some times you can encounter white trash....seriously, any generalization is wrong and unfair. The fact that people analyze and adjust their preseption is promising. Don't judge the whole nation by some not the best members of it.

      September 27, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • vdrumin

      We are all immigrants here, and if you have such negative things to say about how people are treated you may want to go back to your place of oragin. However you may just want to move to a freindly state like New York there the while men is a minority....and they are much more tolarent – viva la diverence God bless them

      September 27, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • Avi

      @ hello, while some of your observations might be pretty accurate. It is never a good thing to generalize an entire nation or an entire race (white people in this instance). It is important to remember that many a time white people have fought and stood-up for the very rights and sufferings of the minorities that you are talking about here (in the US) and all over the world.

      September 27, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • Renee

      You are so right! I just posted a truth and it was screened out, but it's ok...I still say you are 100% right!

      September 28, 2012 at 8:58 am |
  17. Erin

    Most of the people commenting here a) didn't read the article and/or b) missed the point of the article.

    September 27, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
  18. CH

    This story made me feel better about humanity. These comments made me feel worst about humanity. Lesson? Never read the comments. People don't feel they have to be civil in the comments.

    September 27, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
    • Avi

      the comments are the real humanity ..... all that civility is sugar coated. Some great man once said ... what you do in darkness away from public sight is what defines you. Its another thing that, that great man is ME.

      September 27, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
  19. Paul B. Huntington III

    as an atheist i love to view these religious wackos they are entertaining.

    hahahah

    the sikh religion is wackier then the xtain and muslim religion.

    and also responsible for biggest mass murder in canadian history.

    September 27, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • Tara

      You give atheists a bad name.

      September 27, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • Jat

      It surely is not a cut and dry case.

      For starters please read the book "soft target" by two canadian investigative journalists, (google: "soft target" waheguroo for a pdf file). It would be nice if you buy it if you like it.
      Also go to homepage of very respected ex Member Parliament David Kilgour and go on to publication "Betrayal: The Spy Canada Abandoned." (you may google it) especially chapter 9. Although this publication has been around for a long time. You will find enough information to understand it is a lot more complicated than what meets the eye.

      Betrayal was published in 1994, In November of 2002, Paszkowski was granted permanent resident status retroactive to December 1984 by consent order of the Federal Court.

      September 27, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • wow

      The Sikh religion is crazier than any other religion?
      LOLOLOLOLOLOL you fail. New Atheism ftl.

      September 27, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  20. lilgtogirl

    How empty is your life that you have to post the picture of a stranger for kicks?

    September 27, 2012 at 10:26 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.