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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. BLUEJEANSGIRL

    ARE YOU SURE IS NOT JUST A GUY WITH BOOBS? 🙂

    September 28, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • pvm

      Might be your bf 🙂

      September 28, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  2. shockedByJim

    Jim, even the crazy people are able to speak and write, you need a doctor for your brain if you haven't noticed it. Related to the girl in the picture, she gave a lesson greater than you understanding, that's why I forgive you because sometimes we don't get it, please for your own sake, step out and search for some help, we all are human beings deserving respect and loving each other, when the hate conquered your heart you still breath, sleep, eat like all the animals do, but the intelligence is gone with the possibility to recover it in the future if this is your will.

    September 28, 2012 at 8:12 am |
  3. jerry

    The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole,but true beauty in a Woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she knows.”
    ― Audrey Hepburn

    September 28, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • Saagar

      I believe in religious freedom since I myself am a Hindu, a minority, but there has to be some ideologies common to a country. Sikhs moved to the US like Hindus or Muslims for a better life. But we all need to examine our faith prior to filling the immigration papers. Can I live amongst a Christian majority, white population or is my faith more important to me. Would I not be a real Sikh or Hindu or Muslim if I moved to the US? If any of the answer is no, then pause for a second.
      I don't mind all of us following our religious beliefs but at some point, if we do not have common ideologies, then these people can live in the US for centuries and will have more in common with sikhs in Punjab than their fellow american counterpart. I am a hindu brahmin but I do not grow my hair as I would have been supposed to in India or eat vegan food as brahmins are required to. I do have my faith and it is close to my heart in my own way but I find more in common with my fellow canadians than I would with someone in India. That's because my parents decided to bring me to Canada and live as Canadians do. Unity in diversity, NOT diversity in unity.

      September 28, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      We said Saager.

      When a Christian or American (for example) goes to another country and insists and doing things the Xtian/American way.. they are said the be arrogant and ignorant. When someone comes to America and does the same thing..they are brave or courageous. Hypocrisy?

      September 28, 2012 at 8:41 am |
  4. anony

    If you are out in public, it's not illegal to take your picture. So all this "it's not ok to take photos of strangers and post them on the internet without permission" doesn't wash.
    Otherwise, there would be millions of lawsuits about it.

    September 28, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • Jason

      Leave it to a Sihk to demonstrate the Christian principle of loving your enemy. I am Jealous of this woman for her ability to love herself and others.

      September 28, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • Chaz

      No one is saying it is illegal, they are saying it is rude.

      September 28, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • Be Randy

      No-one said it was illegal.. its called morals and ethics. Common human decency.

      September 28, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • Jared

      I think it's more of a moral thing...

      On another note, have you ever thought about the fact that we all sometimes end up in photos that other people take, whether on vacation or wherever. Somewhere in some photo album there are photos of ALL of us that were captured by the fact that we just happened to be walking by. Kinda creepy...but also kinda cool.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  5. allie8

    This made me cry. What a beautiful, well adjusted human being. I have poly cystic ovarian syndrome and while my facial hair will never be as significant as hers it is something I go to great lengths to get rid of. It is a source of great shame for me – I am a woman in my 40's amd can only wish to be as comfortable in my own skin as this young woman is in hers.

    September 28, 2012 at 8:03 am |
  6. Reality

    Only for new members of this blog:

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

    September 28, 2012 at 8:01 am |
  7. Me

    Goes to show how screwed up religion really is. I'm not an athiest, agnostic would describe me better. I just think people who want to walk around looking like a freak of nature because of their "religion" are a little messed up in the head.

    September 28, 2012 at 7:59 am |
    • Nair

      Yeah. A real beauty..sorry | threw up a little in my mouth.

      September 28, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • pvm

      If they don't bother you why do you care? you live your way and let them live. Don't judge religion based on looks or the other way round.

      September 28, 2012 at 8:20 am |
  8. Gorsh

    Americans wonder why most of the world hates us. Look at the comments here. What a bunch ugly minded, self important fucs.

    September 28, 2012 at 7:55 am |
    • Will

      Oh gosh the rest of the world hates us, I'm so sad! 😦

      We didn't become a superpower by trying to please the rest of the world or make them like us. Fcuk the rest of the world.

      September 28, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      As a person with many friends in different countries I have to agree with Jim. I've had this convo with all of them and this..arrogant American thing is believed more by your local self loathing tin-foil hat type than non-Americans.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  9. Singh

    You really understood Baba Nanak teaching. What more important is your inner beauty(nice heart) rather than looks. Wish my kids grow up strong like you. Dont worry about stupid comments here. Some are just born stupid.

    September 28, 2012 at 7:31 am |
    • Gorsh

      Jim, you are just a very unpleasant person. The ugliness in your heart can not be blotted out by your attempts to mock others.

      September 28, 2012 at 7:50 am |
  10. unowhoitsme

    She has a right to do as she pleases...it's America...and no one's business.

    September 28, 2012 at 7:23 am |
  11. sputnick1

    I find this less disturbing than the 1100 pound woman

    September 28, 2012 at 7:20 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I agree.. that 1100 lb hispanic woman is disgusting. But that’s no excuse to let yourself go and blame it on god.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  12. Critical Thinking

    Sorry. It's gross.

    September 28, 2012 at 7:17 am |
  13. justuandme

    .This is an invasion of privacy and you can't use the public space as an excuse. This is just as bad as the college kid that streamed his gay roommate actions. Very poor taste indeed and a lack of intelligence/judgement. "I was thinking about it more as a picture, not about the people in the pictures." Yeah right, give me a break!

    September 28, 2012 at 7:14 am |
    • justuandme

      @jim111506 I see you are young and you lack the intelligence to understand that ALL women including your mom, grandmom, Sis and all the other females in your family do have some natural form of hair growth. Mild or not you need to respect that. You have grown up in a culture where everyone shaves their legs, armit, etc etc. Up to a few decades ago most women never thought about shaving the muffs. There is nothing wrong with the woman in the pic. You have a right not to like her outlook but it does not give you the right to call her a freak. Talk to your mom/sis and explain to them what you just said.... actually show them what you wrote in this post then come back and let me know what their reaction was. I dare ya.

      September 28, 2012 at 7:30 am |
    • justuandme

      @jim111506 So lets say for argument sake the girl above was actually your Sister. And you found out about this public posting of her pic.... you would be content and ok with it? ...including al lof the negative comments? If you say yes, then I have nothing further to add.

      September 28, 2012 at 7:47 am |
    • Jason

      Jim:
      The point of the article is that she HAS accepted the way she looks and is very happy with the way she was created. Read, think, respond in that order.

      September 28, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • Jat

      Hi justuandme.
      jim111506 is posting all over the place, seems to have nothing better to do.
      It is always better to ignore people with closed minds OR no/little intellect.
      GOD bless him and give him some sanity.

      September 28, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • justuandme

      You still have not answered the question. And I did not limit your answer. I put forth and questioned your morals and sense of human understanding. Instead of dancing around with senseless blurbs why not just stand up and answer the question? What I asked was a fair question to your direct comments. No fluff in my posts, its pretty direct.

      September 28, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • WASP

      @JIM: mourning how you been? hope you're well. is the mean ol' jim11 on here trolling again? lmfao. i do agree, i myself find this female a little unnerving in appearence. i wouldn't be able to stop staring at her facial hair if i met her in real life, it would just weird me out.

      September 28, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • WASP

      @jim: well whatever to pass the time. lol. most folks don't catch on that quickly to you just poking to get a response. well enjoy. 🙂 oh yeah almost forgot...................(preppy south calif accent) you are just so rude and immature. lmfao

      September 28, 2012 at 8:29 am |
  14. Nick

    Funny how this photo draws much Ire, yet I wonder how many of those same offended people have checked out PeopleofWalMart.com and have not laughed their butts off. Religious freedom or not, its a fact that a woman with facial hair is not the norm and is going to draw attention.

    September 28, 2012 at 7:02 am |
  15. metalhead65

    great so now the guy has to say he is sorry for posting a picture of some weirdo because it and the pc police find it offensive? if you are going to have to apologize at least say something more offensive than not sure what to make of this.

    September 28, 2012 at 6:59 am |
  16. fiftyfive55

    she lets her appearance go to the dogs and then wonders why people comment,laugh and insult ? D'OH

    September 28, 2012 at 6:35 am |
    • noteabags

      The point she is trying to make is that you shouldn't be so shallow. Physical appearance is not what makes the person. I guess you don't get it.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:42 am |
    • fiftyfive55

      @noteabags-what planet are you from ? If looks dont count then why do make up companies make billions of dollars off women ? This woman with a beard belongs in a circus side show as a bearded lady,she looks like an idiot.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:49 am |
  17. NandoinNYC

    ScottInNYC I am with you on your beliefs these CNN rooms get pretty disgusting and I am not saying every once in while but EveryDay Kids and Adults are just becoming online Demons. There is hardly ever a page on CNN that does not have there sick views obviously they have to show themselves because they can not help being the devil's advocate. These views are sickening and someone here obviously has decided to make fun of One that happens to have a beard and mustache but does not understand what is inside and she knows fully well how she may look to others but her outlook as I am sure many of us out there feel the same we could care less on how we look. Hey of you wish not to believe so be it but alot of us do believe. I shall not be calling anyone out you already know who you are. I will be with my Lord when I die the question is will you? Most of you are just carbon copies of each other. I respect individuality hence why I joined the military and only 1% of the country joins to make a difference while the rest of you sit back and talk your Sugar Honey Iced Tea.

    September 28, 2012 at 6:23 am |
  18. chuckler

    Ah, so this woman loves her attention by not taking 3 minutes to shave her manly facial hair and to not offend the eyes of others. Got it. Funny how her peers can take the minor time for basic hygiene but she can't.

    September 28, 2012 at 5:52 am |
    • Rinda Lynn

      Did you not fully read the article? She has as much right to her religious beliefs as any one else on this planet. Why intentionally scoff at her for practicing her beliefs?

      September 28, 2012 at 6:13 am |
    • justuandme

      This is an invasion of privacy and you can't use the public space as an excuse. This is just as bad as the college kid that streamed his gay roommate actions. Very poor taste indeed and a lack of intelligence/judgement. "I was thinking about it more as a picture, not about the people in the pictures." Yeah right, give me a break!

      September 28, 2012 at 7:13 am |
    • cs76

      Really? She has to shave so that YOU won't be offended???? Do you make yourself look pretty in order to not offend people or are you just who you are? You have serious issues.

      September 28, 2012 at 7:21 am |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    September 28, 2012 at 5:11 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but your assertions regarding atheism and prayer are unfounded. The degree to which your assertions may represent correct statements is 0.0. To help you understand the degree to which your assertions may represent correct statements, I will access my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE). Using my IEE module, the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent correct statements is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book might help you overcome this problem:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...
      by the Alzheimer's Disease Society

      September 28, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  20. i'm j - j bond

    Her first name 'BalPreet' in Punjabi means hair lover or someone who likes hair...

    September 28, 2012 at 4:55 am |
    • jat

      Bond
      Bal in hindi means hair, Punjabi for hair is Vaal
      Bal in punjabi means a child.

      September 28, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • gjkaur

      Bal in punjabi means 'courage' and preet means 'love'

      So her name means courage lover 🙂

      September 28, 2012 at 10:38 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.