- A young Sikh woman -- whose photo was taken at an airport, posted online, and then ridiculed by hundreds -- is being hailed across the web today after defending herself so eloquently that her original tormenter felt compelled to apologize to all Sikhs everywhere.
- In the widely-shared photo, Balpreet Kaur, an Ohio State University student, is shown waiting in line at an airport. She glances down at her iPhone, unaware that her picture is being taken.
“I’m not sure what to conclude from this,” wrote a person with the handle European_douchebag when he posted the photo to Reddit’s /funny section.
- It is clear from the thread that user is referring to the hair on Kaur’s face, but commenters also took digs at the young woman’s turban and looks in general.
Kaur, a neuroscience major, was unaware that her image was starting to go viral until a classmate mentioned it on Facebook.
“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.
“Yes, I'm a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. 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 [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will.”
Kaur continued on to explain why she ignores societal views of physical beauty in favour of action and inner virtue.
- Hey, guys. This is Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture. I actually didn't know about this until one of my friends told on facebook. If the OP wanted a picture, they could have just asked and I could have smiled :) However, I'm not embarrased or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positve] that this picture is getting because, it's who I am. Yes, I'm a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. 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 [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will. Just as a child doesn't reject the gift of his/her parents, Sikhs do not reject the body that has been given to us. By crying 'mine, mine' and changing this body-tool, we are essentially living in ego and creating a seperateness between ourselves and the divinity within us. By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions. My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it? When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away. However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can. So, to me, my face isn't important but the smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are. :-) So, if anyone sees me at OSU, please come up and say hello. I appreciate all of the comments here, both positive and less positive because I've gotten a better understanding of myself and others from this. Also, the yoga pants are quite comfortable and the Better Together tshirt is actually from Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that focuses on storytelling and engagement between different faiths. :) I hope this explains everything a bit more, and I apologize for causing such confusion and uttering anything that hurt anyone.
- Kaur’s short essay shot up the thread immediately, earning her the “best comment” spot and soliciting a flurry of supportive words.
By Tuesday, the original poster, came forward with an apology:
“I felt the need to apologize to the Sikhs, Balpreet, and anyone else I offended when I posted that picture. Put simply it was stupid. Making fun of people is funny to some but incredibly degrading to the people you're making fun of. It was an incredibly rude, judgmental, and ignorant thing to post.” He wrote.
“I've read more about the Sikh faith and it was actually really interesting. It makes a whole lot of sense to work on having a legacy and not worrying about what you look like. I made that post for stupid internet points and I was ignorant.”
- News of Kaur's eloquent retort and its ability to solicit a heartfelt apology from a person who only four days earlier felt it was okay to mock photos of unsuspecting women online, started spreading out from feminist and web culture blogs this morning.
Soon, thousands were praising the young Sikh woman who refused to get rid of her facial hair – and proudly so.