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D-bag points and laughs, woman shames with awesome
September 26, 2012 1:54 PM   Subscribe

Balpreet Kaur is a (female) sophomore at Ohio State who follows the Sikh tenet of kesh (uncut hair). Choosing to leave her facial hair in its natural state, however, led to her candid picture drawing negative attention in Reddit's "funny" section. Her clear, friendly and smart response has now gone viral, changing the opinion of at least one european douchebag.
posted by Madamina (134 comments total) 91 users marked this as a favorite

 
Good for her. The more I find out about Sikhs, the more I like them.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:57 PM on September 26, 2012 [23 favorites]


This. Is.excellant. Bravo that woman and bravo to the original poster on Redit for apologising.
posted by Faintdreams at 1:58 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was about to rag on you for the "douchebag" comment but you were not being the jerk I had assumed you were. So, yeah, sorry about making assumptions!
posted by ardgedee at 1:58 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


wow. stuff from reddit doesn't normally make it so dusty in here.

i wish i had half the presence of mind that this woman does. in fact, she is so amazing in her reply that it doesn't have the affect of making me feel guilty for being not as sure of myself, rather in her awesomeness, it makes me feel like maybe,just maybe, i'm awesome too. just the way i am.
posted by sio42 at 1:59 PM on September 26, 2012 [51 favorites]


After a day when reddit featured a ton of racist jokes about a picture of a pepper, this is refreshing.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:00 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


This kinda shit is what keeps me from going back to Reddit.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 2:01 PM on September 26, 2012 [14 favorites]


Just when you think people are all dickheads, one goes and acts totally awesome. Life is good.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:01 PM on September 26, 2012


Very graceful and moving response. Faith in Humanity: Restored.

Just yesterday a friend was celebrating the fact that autumn/winter will allow her to slack off on leg shaving. Meanwhile, I'm hirsute male stuck shaving my face lest I become the hobo at work.
posted by stroke_count at 2:01 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sounds like an incredibly brave, confident and mature person.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:01 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think it's worth posting her full response in case people don't click through, because it's one of the most thoughtful and enlightening statements I've read in a very long time, even apart from what it was in response to:
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.
posted by sallybrown at 2:03 PM on September 26, 2012 [84 favorites]


I know Balpreet! I met her at an interfaith book club -- awesome lady, rocks her facial hair.
posted by Leucistic Cuttlefish at 2:03 PM on September 26, 2012 [27 favorites]


So many feels
posted by Ad hominem at 2:04 PM on September 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I was very prepared to hate everything about this post and I am glad I read all the links, even the Jezebel one.
posted by jessamyn at 2:06 PM on September 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


Pretty awesome!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:06 PM on September 26, 2012


The reply that sallybrown posted is amazing. Also, yay for hairy women.
posted by medusa at 2:07 PM on September 26, 2012


Man, why is it that I've never really been around any Sikhs. I guess it's probably a good thing because their bravery, selflessness, wisdom, and (as seen in the OPs links) well-spokenness would likely put me to shame.
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:07 PM on September 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


As a side note, I think women's facial hair is this major unacknowledged reality. Lately I've been wondering if most women have some facial hair, but living in the US, I don't see it since the vast majority shave, tweeze, or electrolisize it off.

/womanwithfacialhair
posted by latkes at 2:09 PM on September 26, 2012 [31 favorites]


European_souchebag posted a much longer apology to /r/funny
posted by Ad hominem at 2:10 PM on September 26, 2012


Damn, that girl made my whole day better.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:10 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


He posted an apology the other day, for what it's worth. Not a bad apology, although it was a damned shitty thing to do in the first place. I like to believe that one internet person has learned his lesson.
posted by koeselitz at 2:10 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


This kinda shit is what keeps me going back to Reddit.
posted by malapropist at 2:11 PM on September 26, 2012 [14 favorites]


As a side note, I think women's facial hair is this major unacknowledged reality. Lately I've been wondering if most women have some facial hair, but living in the US, I don't see it since the vast majority shave, tweeze, or electrolisize it off.

I think so. I've met women with serious beards when traveling, and every woman I've lived with has had to make decisions about how to handle at least a few facial hairs.
posted by Forktine at 2:14 PM on September 26, 2012


This woman sounds pretty awesome. I wish I had as much warmth and self-confidence as she does.

I'm also grudgingly impressed by the OP. It takes real balls (in a gender-free sense) to apologize and admit that you were wrong in a public forum.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 2:16 PM on September 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I didn't realize that the "don't cut your hair" thing applied to Sikh women. I don't think I've ever seen a Sikh woman wearing a turban, so I learned something today. Thanks, MeFi!
posted by asnider at 2:19 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


For the record, this is not Balpreet's first time on the internet. She is featured in this promotional video from the Interfaith Youth Core, which her T-shirt references: Better Together 2012-2013.
posted by Leucistic Cuttlefish at 2:20 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


In regards to women and facial hair, my wife has a very slight mustache - one you wouldn't see unless you were close - and I genuinely find it adorable.

I would add a "Less Than Three" heart after that statement, but MeFi converts it to HTML.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:20 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just yesterday a friend was celebrating the fact that autumn/winter will allow her to slack off on leg shaving.

One of the many reasons I look forward to fall and pants.
posted by longdaysjourney at 2:20 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I liked european_douchebag's apology, but this made me laugh:

"This isn't 4chan, or 9gag, or some other stupid website where people post things like I did."
posted by brundlefly at 2:21 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm a Hindu but I currently live in a community dominated by the Sikhs in East Delhi. I can tell you they are such a compassionate community; I've never had such an amazing experience in my lifetime. You can see many girls like Balpreet Kaur in India, especially in Amritsar of Punjab.

She looks so sweet and those laughing at her don't know what it takes to be a Sikh :-)
If you ever visit a Gurudwara (their religious place/temple) you get the picture clear about them. They equally respect the people from all religions. They are really amazing!!
posted by molisk at 2:21 PM on September 26, 2012 [21 favorites]


What a graceful person. Be the change you want to see in the world, indeed.
posted by shoesietart at 2:21 PM on September 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


I would add a "Less Than Three" heart after that statement, but MeFi converts it to HTML.

Time to learn about HTML escapes. <3
posted by axiom at 2:24 PM on September 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


I am kind of fascinated by women with significant facial hair. The singer in Le Tigre definitely makes it work for her. And I have met women who had to "manage" it all the time because if they didn't it would be very dark and noticeable.

My son once told me women can't have beards and we had a long interesting conversation about how we all come from hairy ancestors and everybody has facial hair of some kind, light or dark. And some women do just have a lot of it.
posted by emjaybee at 2:26 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Her comment on Sikh women wearing turbans as a sign of empowerment is pretty interesting too.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:37 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would add a "Less Than Three" heart after that statement, but MeFi converts it to HTML.
To avoid this, you can type &lt;3 instead. Which, in turn, I had to type as "&amp;lt;3" to avoid it turning into <3. If you're doing HTML escape sequences anyway, you can also do ♥, "&hearts;".
posted by NMcCoy at 2:43 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I am just as God made me, sir!"

- Paul Benedict in a Memphis hotel lobby, Spinal Tap.
posted by phaedon at 2:47 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I never understood that escape sequence. It is clearly just a single heart.

The origin of this story is why I don't read reddit regularly. If there is something of interest, I have the blue to tell me when I can look.
posted by chemoboy at 2:47 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm a lady with a not insignificant amount of dark, wiry hair in places where society says ladies shouldn't. And it's a daily fight, even though I manage it like a champ. But I also have wasted hours of my life in front of the mirror tweezing, engaging in deep self-loathing for having the misfortune to have pale skin, dark hair, and crappy hormones. Noone can ever get too close to my cheeks. I rarely wear my hair up, because I don't want the full range of face on display. What if I missed some? What if someone sees? People will comment. People do comment. People are dicks, but that doesn't make me feel any less shameful about it.

I never thought I'd have a facial hair icon. I am in awe of Balpreet, her response needs to hang next to that fucking mirror. I hate that mirror.
posted by troika at 2:49 PM on September 26, 2012 [83 favorites]


this was so completely wonderful.

when i was 10 or 11 my mom sent me into the bathroom with a razor and some soap. she gave me the basics and left me alone. i shaved all the hair off me below my neck, except for my arms. my mom yelled at me. quickly shaving became something i did as a response to some repeated trauma - a way to clean everything i guess. through my late teens and early 20s i would pendulum back and forth between being hairy in a politically active sort of way and shaving everything off, still maybe in a responding to triggers sort of way.

as a 30 year old woman my armpits are basically always a bit longer than my small middle america town is comfortable with and my legs go from shaved to hairy (and my bush is generally trimmed - but that's another topic not related to public hairiness). probably due to the political active stuff, i never make a move to cover up my hair - if i want to wear a tank top and a skirt in the middle of summer when i haven't shaved in a month, i will do it. sometimes people stare, nearly always women that i've noticed, but it doesn't really bug me anymore. the only exception to this is visiting my fairly traditional mormon/church of christ family. i perform femininity there as a peace keeping measure.

having said all of that - in my teenage years i was anorexic and as such i have a covering of downy, white-blond hair on my jaw and cheeks. i basically have to ignore it because it bothers me so much (my husband assures me it's adorable). then there's the chin/neck hairs that are growing in number, width, and length with age - i am mortified by them. i never do a good enough job tweezing them and then i find a long one and i blush and i shame spiral.

it's all preference and there's no right way, but i'm glad to have read this. i will think of her next time i have a little western freak out about some stray hairs.
posted by nadawi at 2:56 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wow, I can't believe the OP's username is actually "european douchebag"!

Like, wow!
posted by Matt Oneiros at 2:58 PM on September 26, 2012


My first girlfriend had a wispy, dark, small mustache (Italian-style). I, being a young feller, was trying to grow in my first mustache, and not having such good luck. One evening, we were being schmoopy, and she said "Your mustache is so cute." And I replied, "Yours is too."

I meant it, I really did---I thought it was very cute (and I was so taken with her, she coulda had a second nose and I would have been charmed). But oh lord, did she not take it in the intended spirit.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:05 PM on September 26, 2012 [55 favorites]


This actually doesn't surprise me much at all after seeing how generous and compassionate the Sikh community in Wisconsin was - right after six of their members had been murdered in cold blood.
posted by desjardins at 3:07 PM on September 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


According to research I did for a magazine article years ago, 45% of women in the US reported doing some kind of facial hair (other than eyebrows and lashes) management--tweezing, depilatories, waxing, threading, bleaching, or shaving--at least monthly. I'm among that 45% myself.

I applaud Ms. Singh's commitment to her own principles, and admire her clarity and eloquence in expressing them. Most of all, her grace in responding to insults by sharing information so serenely is humbling to me.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:18 PM on September 26, 2012 [11 favorites]


I never understood that escape sequence. It is clearly just a single heart.

It's in there as a playing card suit, along with ♣ (&clubs;) ♠ (&spades;) and ♦ (&diams;).
posted by eykal at 3:18 PM on September 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


The origin of this story is why I don't read reddit regularly. If there is something of interest, I have the blue to tell me when I can look.

It is certainly up to you but I think you may be missing out. How about this brief introduction to indigenous people in NZ. This criminologist take on relative poverty and gun violence. Howto set up a pirate radio station. How to "sell yourself" to employers. This comment explains levitation melting.

You may take issues with some of these comments, but someone on reddit is discussing anything you can imagine.

No denying there is a lot of bad. But there is a lot of good. It is the most vital online community today. Hell, Barack Obama and Jill Stein are both redditors. I'll shut up about reddit now.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:19 PM on September 26, 2012 [22 favorites]


She's amazing. I needed to hear something good like this, today. Thank you!
posted by marimeko at 3:24 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


How about this ...

Are you *trying* to keep me from getting any work done today?
posted by chemoboy at 3:25 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


For a community that loves cat photos, there sure is a lot of disdain for reddit here. As Ad hominem said, there's a lot of good and bad. /r/bestof/ is like an ongoing "best post" contest where no winners are declared.
posted by bgrebs at 3:27 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ultimately my basic scientific extinctionist existentialism would prevent me from joining, but if I were to consider being religious again, I'd definitely check out the Sikhs. I've been impressed, even a bit awestruck with them ever since I first did extensive reading about them following the senseless bigoted murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi, which occurred while I was living in the Phoenix metroplex during that whole era.
posted by hippybear at 3:34 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


i have an account at reddit. even so, it's not at all confusing to me why some people would have disdain for it. for every great post there's one like this or a rape apology thread or just a general undercurrent to a lot of the subreddits of young white men living generally lower middle class lives being the real victims and free speech is enough of an excuse to cover any horrific thing that comes out of their mouths. if you wade through all that, there is certainly good to be had, but some people don't want a pile of shit with their cornflakes and it's hard to blame them for that.
posted by nadawi at 3:35 PM on September 26, 2012 [12 favorites]


Sikhs take their hair VERY seriously. I knew someone who refused chemo because it would make his hair fall out. He opted for an alternative treatment, and it's a good thing that it worked! I don't want to think of what he would have done if it hadn't.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:44 PM on September 26, 2012


Hair hair! We think of a "Nazerite" as someone from Nazerine. No. A young male selected to serve god, he was never to cut his hair or swallow anything from the vie (a settled way of life) till his vows complete, time served. Samson a nazerite and thus allowing his hair to be cut severed his vow to God. Many religious people in one or another way have rules about hair.
posted by Postroad at 3:50 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I had a really hard time relating to my Sikh friend who refused the chemo. I literally had no frame of reference. I mean, I think of the things I'd be willing to die for. To fight some sort of genocidal warlord? Perhaps. But to be willing to die for a religion... that's just something I couldn't relate to, in any way. Again, I'm glad the alternative treatment he chose worked.

So yeah, when a woman with facial hair chooses to keep it for religious reasons, we can admire her inner strength. But when someone is willing to risk death because their religion doesn't allow them to lose their hair, I feel like we're bordering on Christian Science territory there. Not that any Sikhs would care, but I don't think I'm entirely cool with their religion.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:57 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I love this post. LOVE it.

Yeah, this was a shitty thing for the guy to do in the first place but I think his about-face and full and honest apology is pretty awesome. There are so many shitty internet trolls who just dig in deeper when confronted, that his response makes me especially happy.

Here is part of it, from the Jezebel link:

I know that this post ISN'T a funny post but 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.

/r/Funny wasn't the proper place to post this. Maybe /r/racism or /r/douchebagsofreddit or /r/intolerance would have been more appropriate. Reddit shouldn't be about putting people down, but a group of people sending cool, interesting, or funny things. Reddit's been in the news alot lately about a lot of cool things we've done, like a freaking AMA by the president. I'm sorry for being the part of reddit that is intolerant and douchebaggy. This isn't 4chan, or 9gag, or some other stupid website where people post things like I did. It's fucking reddit. Where some pretty amazing stuff has happened.

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.

So reddit I'm sorry for being an asshole and for giving you negative publicity.
Balpreet, I'm sorry for being a closed minded individual. You are a much better person than I am
Sikhs, I'm sorry for insulting your culture and way of life.
Balpreet's faith in what she believes is astounding.

posted by triggerfinger at 4:13 PM on September 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


Oh, and Balpreet is an inspiration. So much respect.
posted by triggerfinger at 4:14 PM on September 26, 2012


Several times in my life, when I was feeling disoriented and helpless, a Sikh person has been kind and generous to me. I have a bit of a positive stereotype about Sikhs.
posted by jiawen at 4:41 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a hairy woman who spends several hours a week trying to, as I tell my husband, turn myself back into a woman, I think Balpreet is wonderful. I wish I had had a Balpreet in my life when I was a young woman and crying big, fat tears over my ugly fate. Perhaps I wouldn't have spent most of my adult life loathing my body.
posted by Foam Pants at 4:44 PM on September 26, 2012 [14 favorites]


Wonderful! Let's celebrate the people shave & the people who don't shave. Let's celebrate the people who live for their legacy & the people who live for the here and now. Let's celebrate the flawless & those who make mistakes. Let's celebrate all the people :-)
posted by deo rei at 5:02 PM on September 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


On the one hand, this was a good response and she seems to have noble reasons for doing what she's doing.

On the other hand, her reasons are no doubt the "talking points" that various Sikh scholars and leaders have come up with to justify what are essentially highly anachronistic practices, followed rigidly and inflexibly in cultures and geographies far removed from their original sources.

I'm not a fan of that. If, as she says, her sole concern is that she spend minimal time on her physical body and maximal time on making the world a better place, I would suggest that her physical appearance probably creates more of a disturbance and an obstruction -- all the explanations and the misconceptions -- to that goal than if she spent a modicum of effort adhering to convention. Moderation is the key.
posted by shivohum at 5:17 PM on September 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


But when someone is willing to risk death because their religion doesn't allow them to lose their hair, I feel like we're bordering on Christian Science territory there. Not that any Sikhs would care, but I don't think I'm entirely cool with their religion.

I don't know if you can generalize from your friend's way of practicing Sikhism to the whole religion. I've known many Sikhs (some of them surgeons working in their home communities, where you would have to cut hair), and I've never heard of this kind of "risking death." Preserving yourself as God's creation can have different interpretations. This is not to say your friend is wrong or unusual. Religion in India tends to be less hegemonic than in the US; even people from the same sect can practice differently.
posted by bluefly at 5:34 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, her reasons are no doubt the "talking points" that various Sikh scholars and leaders have come up with to justify what are essentially highly anachronistic practices

How do you know this is true? She seems to do a lot of outreach on her faith and interfaith topics, and most Sikh women do not present the way she does, so she seems to have some individual thoughts going on.
posted by sweetkid at 5:41 PM on September 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


I would suggest that her physical appearance probably creates more of a disturbance and an obstruction -- all the explanations and the misconceptions -- to that goal than if she spent a modicum of effort adhering to convention.

I think there's a lot wrong with that statement, especially when it comes to the social pressure women face to conform to pretty arbitrary beauty conventions. If someone's "harmed" by looking at her face I hardly see how that's her fault. Expanding people's minds through explanations and correcting misunderstandings doesn't make the world a worse place, it makes it a better one.
posted by wilky at 5:42 PM on September 26, 2012 [56 favorites]


shivohum: I would suggest that her physical appearance probably creates more of a disturbance and an obstruction -- all the explanations and the misconceptions -- to that goal than if she spent a modicum of effort adhering to convention.

The time she saves not preening gives her more time to make the world a better place. Also, what is convention to you is not convention to her.
posted by troika at 5:43 PM on September 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


my wife is a sikh and also an endocrinologist and she thinks that perhaps balpreet should see an endocrinologist...

and if she is already seeing an endocrinologist, well... turns out the medical solution for the hair caused by the condition she might have is electrolysis. which is a bit of a sticky wicket for a sikh.
posted by joeblough at 5:45 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


How do you know this is true?

Because her justifications and language are widespread.

For example: This question is frequently asked, “Why do you keep hair?” Hair is a gift from God, therefore why should anyone give it away by cutting it? Hair is one of the five articles of faith for Sikhs. Sikhs live the way God made humans and never cut their hair. For Sikhs hair is the symbol of love for God and the respect for everything He has given us. The way God made us is the most beautiful of all.
--
If someone's "harmed" by looking at her face I hardly see how that's her fault.

It's not about people being harmed. It's about following a practice knowing that it's going to attract a lot of attention and then claiming that all you want to do is not pay time and attention to your body so you can help the world. Well, by attracting attention and having to explain yourself, you are -- for completely different reasons -- spending a lot of time and attention on your body! It was probably different in India at the time these practices were created; but they do not transfer well to the modern day West.

Now if her motivations were mainly about showing cultural solidarity, that would be different. But those are not her expressed reasons.

I would say something similar about people, for example, who choose not to use deodorant. In some places and times, deodorant might indeed be seen as an unnecessary luxury. In the US, though, you are putting people off by walking around with body odor. You are placing trivialities above your primary purpose. It's a form of pride, really.
posted by shivohum at 6:04 PM on September 26, 2012


I think she IS changing the world by modeling acceptance of one's own body. Maybe if more people did that, more of us would grow up loving and accepting ourselves and each other. Look at all the responses from women in this thread going "I wish I could be more like her and hate myself less!" I think it's an extremely brave and useful act in and of itself.

Do you know how expensive and time consuming it is for a woman to remove facial hair and how much SHAME is wrapped up in that process every day? Most women can't just shave it off like a man every day because you have to get ALL of it with no stubble ever and maintain your silky soft skin. It's actually very difficult. I'm lucky enough that I can get away with shaving because it's light hair on light skin so if I don't get all of it it's ok but not everyone is so lucky.
posted by bleep at 6:13 PM on September 26, 2012 [20 favorites]


i mean, she is wearing glasses. how about using the eyes that god gave you, in their perfection?
posted by joeblough at 6:29 PM on September 26, 2012


Speaking as a woman who plucks her wiry chin hairs with a savage joy and lets her underarms and legs grow as hairy as they will, I do not give a good goddamn whether my personal grooming choices draw people's attention or not. It's not about them.
posted by KathrynT at 6:33 PM on September 26, 2012 [33 favorites]


I want to preface this by saying that Ms. Kaur seems like a lovely person that any of us, myself included, would be privileged to know. Her response was pleasant, assertive without being aggressive, and it is objectively wonderful that she was able to change even one person's mind about his preconceptions.

But I don't think the subtext is as nice, empowering, or egalitarian as it's being made out to be here. Ms. Kaur's argument isn't pretexted on the idea that all people should be free to do with their own bodies as they please. I'm going to quote from her post now:
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.
So: baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body. The implication: others don't. Sikhs keep the body intact as a submission to the divine will. Implication: others, who do not keep the body "intact," are actively defying the divine will. Sikh don't reject the body that has been given to them. Implication: others do.

Some may think it gauche of me to pick on minority religious views this way. I don't mean to imply, in any way, that it isn't okay for Ms. Kaur to hold these opinions or that it is at all inappropriate for her to express them. That isn't what I mean, and again, I think it's great that she was able to give such a temperate yet fervent defense of herself and her beliefs.

But it sets off alarm bells in my head to hear personal decisions about self and self-image couched in terms of what God's will is. Ms. Kaur didn't deserve to get made fun of in public because of her appearance, and that's independent of whatever her religious views about the body are. Ms. Kaur's personal eloquence not withstanding, how warm would the reception have been if her response had simply been "yeah, whatevs, didn't feel like shaving/plucking/whatever today/this week/etc"? Surely there would have been any number of individuals out there ready to cheer and support her, but I doubt it would have garnered an apology from the poster, or overwrought declarations about a person's faith in humanity or hearts growing three sizes. Does our willingness to tolerate people's personal choices extend only to those grounded in some spiritual or philosophical framework?

I myself am many things. I have a disease called trichotillomania. I feel comfortable saying that here only because I admitted it here once in the past. It's there, forever in my MetaFilter comment history, and I can't take it back. People deal with trich in different ways. To some, it is merely a bad habit, like biting one's nails. To me, it is a compulsion I cannot stop, only control. My most important tool in controlling trich is my razor blade. I shave everywhere that is socially acceptable for a man to shave, and a couple places that aren't. But I can, and I do, still pluck hairs from my eyebrows and my eyelashes. I don't even realize I'm doing it until I look up and fervently hope the guy at the desk across from mine didn't see me methodically pull five lashes, one at a time, from my eye and think what a weirdo I am. My wife looks with concern at my patchy, uneven eyebrows and asks why I can't just stop doing it.

I am other things. I am bisexual; six or seven years ago I would have identified as gay. I am also a member of a small but highly-orthodox Christian denomination. These two areas of my life, naturally, have never intersected but in the battleground of my mind. But I am too intimately familiar with hearing someone else's idea of what the divine will is, about what the "natural" way of things should be and how the way I feel inside defies or rejects God's will or His plan for me.

I agree with Ms. Kaur that our bodies are a wonderful gift from God. I do not agree that, like vintage Superman action figures, we cannot take our bodies out of the box they came in.

While I was writing this I stopped several times and kind of wondered WHY I was writing this, why this small event that affected a number of people in a positive way seemed to have this immediate, visceral, negative effect on me, and this bit of bleep's comment, I think, crystalizes it:

"I think she IS changing the world by modeling acceptance of one's own body. Maybe if more people did that, more of us would grow up loving and accepting ourselves and each other. Look at all the responses from women in this thread going "I wish I could be more like her and hate myself less!" I think it's an extremely brave and useful act in and of itself. "

I think that's exactly it, and I think this is exactly what Ms. Kaur is NOT doing. Your body is whatever you make of it. Short hair, long hair, facial hair, baby face, fat, skinny, piercings, tattos, drag, suit & tie, make it your own. Ms. Kaur is not accepting her own body; she is very strictly accepting only one possible version and stating, in pleasant but no uncertain terms, that people who make other choices are not just committing a social faux pas, but flauting and rebelling against divine will. Maybe that means less to the irreligious among us than it does to me, but as unpleasant as it can be to get funny looks in a crowd, it's far more bothersome to me to be told that my method of staying as sane and comfortable in my own body as I can is an affront to God.

Your body is a gift from God, but it is also your home. Nobody should have to feel uncomfortable in their own home.
posted by kjh at 6:40 PM on September 26, 2012 [17 favorites]


joeblough - she actually discusses that in the thread.
The over arching principal is this body is a tool for service. We have to maintain and take care of it while cherishing its original form. In this sense, going to the hospital is okay. Eating medicine is fine, because it maintains the body. A sick ailing body can not serve as efficiently as an able. My hair doesn't stop me from being normal or doing service so its not a hinderance. I've been to the doctor regarding this and its just a side effect of my hormone levels during my teenage years. The hormones have returned to normal but the hair is still there. That's fine :) I don't regret anything nor do i view it as an unfortunate thing.
posted by nadawi at 6:56 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


"she is very strictly accepting only one possible version and stating, in pleasant but no uncertain terms, that people who make other choices are not just committing a social faux pas, but flauting and rebelling against divine will"

I think that this sort of thing exist in any religion that believes there is a one true way to carry out God's will, or a god's will, or whatever the the religion should think is the best way to do things. But is that true of Sihkism?

Wikipedia states:

"Sikhism teaches to respect all other religions (tolerance) and that one should defend the rights of not just one's own religion but the religion and faith of others as a human right. "

If this is true, the it seems to stand that adhering to the precepts of Sihkism is highly limited to the person, and there is no judgement of those who do not. I cannot speak to what happens in practice, not knowing any Sihks (regrettably), but I think it's uncharitable to read Kaur's response as an implicit condemnation of those who don't see the body as a gift of the Divine.
posted by Mister Cheese at 7:00 PM on September 26, 2012 [11 favorites]


kjh - i'm also have trichotillomania (and pica and ocd sort of all in a jumble). i was actually actively (semi-consciously) plucking out eyebrow hairs while reading your comment. i can totally see where you're coming from. i do think that spirituality, while practiced broadly, is also very personal. a woman living in middle america deciding to live by a stricter code than probably her mother, sisters, aunts, and other female community members live is making a very personal choice about her appearance to the world. i think it's totally fair game to question the wider practices of grooming in religion (specific or general), but i think it's also important to separate that from individual choices.

on preview, i was going to add what Mister Cheese said. i don't believe the sikh religion is one where there's one true path. it's more like judaism and less like christianity in that respect, i think.
posted by nadawi at 7:06 PM on September 26, 2012


baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body. The implication: others don't.

Ms. Kaur is... stating, in pleasant but no uncertain terms, that people who make other choices are not just committing a social faux pas, but flauting and rebelling against divine will.

Geez. She's just communicating (defending from mockery, really) her beliefs. This is what she believes and why she's doing this thing. She's not making implicit statements about how wrong everyone else is.

"The people in my community believe in the importance of education."
"Aren't you implying that everyone who ISN'T in your community DOESN'T believe in the importance of education?"
"Uh... no?"
posted by naju at 7:15 PM on September 26, 2012 [19 favorites]


I am kind of fascinated by women with significant facial hair. The singer in Le Tigre definitely makes it work for her. And I have met women who had to "manage" it all the time because if they didn't it would be very dark and noticeable.

By total coincidence, I was listening to Le Tigre's TKO on YouTube when I clicked over to MetaFilter. JD Samson totally rocks her moustache.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 7:19 PM on September 26, 2012


She is awesome. You rock, Balpreet! I'm not going to say something trite like "I think she is so beautiful!!!" because facial hair on women is obviously not considered beautiful under Society's Rules About Beauty; we wouldn't be having this thread otherwise. I think always bringing things around to "nooooo actually this is beautiful" is sort of like saying (on a coincidentally related note) about the recent Sikh hate shooting, "nooooo that guy was so wrong when he thought these people were dirty Muslims, actually they are law-abiding Sikhs!" You can't kill a discourse from the inside.
posted by threeants at 7:59 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it's a little weird to interpret someone's statement of beliefs about how they conduct their own life as a disparagement of how other people conduct theirs. I don't shave my legs and haven't for years, not for religious reasons but because it's a pain and I hated it. That doesn't mean I think people who do shave are doing it wrong. I do pluck my more annoying chin hairs because if I don't, I tend to fiddle with them and they get infected/ingrown, but if not plucking yours makes you happy, then yay.

This doesn't apply to everything, but I contain multitudes, including inconsistencies.
posted by rtha at 8:01 PM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Aaaaaaalso, that one dude's apology seems to Not Really Get It. His initial post did turn out to be racist, but the basic problem was not that he was intolerant of a Sikh custom, but that people should be able to have their bodies the way they fucking want them without being criticized.
posted by threeants at 8:03 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I agree with kjh. She's obviously free to hold whatever beliefs she wants, and I think it's very cool that she's comfortable in her body and doesn't feel the need to conform to mainstream beauty ideals, but her beliefs aren't really any less oppressive than the beauty ideals themselves.

It'd be more admirable if she'd be doing what she does because she just thinks it's ok, and that's what she wants, not because a religion tells her to.

In general, any religion that tries to tell people what they can and can't do with their bodies will lead to oppression. I'm not trying to troll, but if you're pro-choice and want to keep religion out of women's bodies, you should probably not be too cool with these ideas from Sikhism either.

Personally, I think people should be free to do whatever they want with their bodies. If they want to heavily modify them, have plastic surgery, hack off limbs, tattoo and pierce, that's cool. If they want to keep it exactly the way it is, that's cool too. That's an individual choice (for adults, it gets a bit stickier for minors). Just leave other people alone.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:03 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


the thing is, sikhism is just another religion. it belongs in a cultural context. they wanted to distinguish themselves from hindus and muslims at the time the religion was founded. someone got the idea to not cut their hair as an external "code" that you belong to the religion. and then, like all religions, they started rationalizing this by saying "god told us to do this".

i didn't realize she addressed the cause for the hair - i didn't read her statement carefully. i still find it silly that some technology is okay (glasses, iphone) but other technology is forbidden by god (razor).

we modify our bodies every time we eat, you know. you aren't made out of the same atoms you were made out of when you were born, save maybe for some of your neural tissues. but these religions were founded when nobody knew those things. so they never made up a rationalization for them.
posted by joeblough at 8:20 PM on September 26, 2012


It'd be more admirable if she'd be doing what she does because she just thinks it's ok, and that's what she wants, not because a religion tells her to. . . . I'm not trying to troll, but if you're pro-choice and want to keep religion out of women's bodies, you should probably not be too cool with these ideas from Sikhism either.

Why, on both counts? She made the choice to live the tenants of her personal belief system. To me, whether that belief system is Sikhism or just an attitude that "it's ok for women to have facial hair," it is still a system of beliefs by which she lives her life. ("A man must have a code," as Omar Little said.) It seems sometimes that people think the strictly religious just blindly follow odd cultural practices for no reason besides "God said so," but religious people question and ponder choices in life just the same as anyone else (including me, the lapsed Catholic agnostic). This is what pro-choice is all about: I will defend your right to live your beliefs, so long as you permit me to live mine. Nothing in her statement even implies a belief that all us women should follow her example.
posted by sallybrown at 8:23 PM on September 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


Personally, I think her statements should be understood as personal belief filtered through her religious background. As the flip side of how a number of asshole bigots will couch their invective in Christianity, Balpreet is expressing what's basically just radical body acceptance through her own cultural context of Sikhism. People use religion and culture as an overlay for their own personal character, in my opinion-- ultimately, haters gonna hate and awesome people gonna oss.
posted by threeants at 8:27 PM on September 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


sallybrown: "Nothing in her statement even implies a belief that all us women should follow her example."

I think that:

"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."

at least means that doing so is wrong. I agree she doesn't seem to be forcing that opinion on anyone else, though. But it seems pretty clear that she thinks changing the body is wrong, not just for her, but for everyone.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:28 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not trying to troll, but if you're pro-choice and want to keep religion out of women's bodies, you should probably not be too cool with these ideas from Sikhism either.

if this is your version of not trying to troll, you need to try harder.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:29 PM on September 26, 2012 [13 favorites]


I think that:

"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."

at least means that doing so is wrong. I agree she doesn't seem to be forcing that opinion on anyone else, though. But it seems pretty clear that she thinks changing the body is wrong, not just for her, but for everyone.


I think she's saying that applies to baptized Sikhs. I don't see anywhere in there where she talks about anyone other than baptized Sikhs and their approach to their bodies in relation to their faith.

The key to all this is to stop assuming that she's making any implied statements about anyone who does not participate in her faith group. You won't find Sikhs ever going around telling people that they are living their lives incorrectly. That's not part of their faith. These assumptions speak more for your own background in a culture which is dominated by an inherently combative faith which aggressively seeks converts than anything about your actual knowledge of Sikhism.
posted by hippybear at 8:37 PM on September 26, 2012 [13 favorites]


Also, I disagree with equating "pro choice" and "keeping religion out of women's bodies." Do I want to keep religion out of my body? Hell to the yeah, I don't believe any of it. Do I want to keep religion out of my Muslim neighbor's body? No, because that is not up to me, that is up to her!
posted by sallybrown at 8:39 PM on September 26, 2012 [13 favorites]


I would suggest that her physical appearance probably creates more of a disturbance and an obstruction -- all the explanations and the misconceptions -- to that goal than if she spent a modicum of effort adhering to convention.

Should she convert to Christianity?
posted by dirigibleman at 8:44 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


hippybear: "I think she's saying that applies to baptized Sikhs. I don't see anywhere in there where she talks about anyone other than baptized Sikhs and their approach to their bodies in relation to their faith."

Well, I'm kind of going on the idea here that a religion implies a cosmology, a creation myth, and so on. I don't think Sikhs believe that they were created by their divinity, while Muslims were created by Allah, etc., they probably believe that one god created all human beings. She says:

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.

She says that baptized Sikhs believe this, but I'm pretty sure they believe it about all bodies, not just the bodies of baptized Sikhs.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:45 PM on September 26, 2012


sallybrown: "Also, I disagree with equating "pro choice" and "keeping religion out of women's bodies." Do I want to keep religion out of my body? Hell to the yeah, I don't believe any of it. Do I want to keep religion out of my Muslim neighbor's body? No, because that is not up to me, that is up to her"

I think the attitude that any body belongs to or should be controlled anyone but its human owner is harmful, actually. You're of course free to disagree.

Of course, I'm not going to tell a Muslim woman to not follow what she believes is God's will when it comes to her decisions about her body, but do I think her attitude is unhealthy? You bet. Same with Christians, Sikhs, or anyone else who thinks they should give control of their bodies to anyone else.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:49 PM on September 26, 2012


I think the attitude that any body belongs to or should be controlled anyone but its human owner is harmful, actually.

I disagree that a woman following a religious rule does not control her own body. She is making the choice to follow a religious belief rather than some other belief, whatever else it may be based on.
posted by sallybrown at 8:52 PM on September 26, 2012


[Do not turn this thread into "my religious opinions, let me share them with you" unless you are discussing, with other people, the topic of the thread. Please. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:54 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not trying to troll, but if you're pro-choice and want to keep religion out of women's bodies, you should probably not be too cool with these ideas from Sikhism either.

I'm not trying to troll, but if you're pro-choice and want to keep women from being religious, you're not as pro-choice as you think.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:55 PM on September 26, 2012 [11 favorites]


She says that baptized Sikhs believe this, but I'm pretty sure they believe it about all bodies, not just the bodies of baptized Sikhs.

Yes, but Sikhs also believe that there is nothing which exists outside of God, and that God is expressed in anything that happens anywhere at any time. They believe that being born is a privilege and they believe they have a path which allows those who are born to reunite with God through devoted meditative practice and good works. It's an interesting blend of hindu, muslim, and quasi-buddhist forms, actually.

But yeah, they believe that about all people, but they don't look down on those who don't hold their beliefs like evangelical christians believe that anyone who isn't washed in the blood of christ is a condemned sinner going to hell. Not all religions operate in the way that the two younger Abrahamic religions do, denouncing all non-believers as anathema who must be taught to know better and correct the error of their ways. Sikhism doesn't operate that way.
posted by hippybear at 9:01 PM on September 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sys Rq: "I'm not trying to troll, but if you're pro-choice and want to keep women from being religious, you're not as pro-choice as you think."

As I said, I'm not keeping anyone from anything. I'm fully capable of disapproving of something or thinking it's a bad idea while still fully accepting someone else's decision to do it.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:25 PM on September 26, 2012


I'm fully capable of disapproving of something or thinking it's a bad idea while still fully accepting someone else's decision to do it.

Sikhs are also capable of doing that. I don't understand how her beliefs are oppressive if she's not forcing them on others.
posted by mokin at 9:44 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


The other day someone told me he didn't like dogs. He can't fool me though, since he knows I like dogs I know he implicitly judges me believes I'm going to Hell for it. After all, if he didn't why would he have stated his preference?
posted by schroedinger at 9:57 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


So now people can't have preferences?
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:31 AM on September 27, 2012


"I would suggest that her physical appearance probably creates more of a disturbance and an obstruction -- all the explanations and the misconceptions -- to that goal than if she spent a modicum of effort adhering to convention. Moderation is the key."

"It'd be more admirable if she'd be doing what she does because she just thinks it's ok, and that's what she wants, not because a religion tells her to."

"So yeah, when a woman with facial hair chooses to keep it for religious reasons, we can admire her inner strength. But when someone is willing to risk death because their religion doesn't allow them to lose their hair, I feel like we're bordering on Christian Science territory there. Not that any Sikhs would care, but I don't think I'm entirely cool with their religion."

"perhaps balpreet should see an endocrinologist...and if she is already seeing an endocrinologist, well... turns out the medical solution for the hair caused by the condition she might have is electrolysis."


She has no desire or reason to conform or adhere to what you think she should do about her life and her life choices. She's not trying to win your admiration or respect or acceptance. She doesn't need your scrutiny and judgment. The rest of us may not be all that interested in it either.

I think she's pretty damn calm and understanding, given that she's been objectified and broadcasted and mocked all over the nation. Because some douchebag sneakily took her photograph -- without her consent -- and posted it on a public forum -- without her consent -- for the purpose of the public to scrutinize and judge. We can choose not to do that. We can even do better than that.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:32 AM on September 27, 2012 [15 favorites]


Seriously, I respect how this young lady handled a very uncomfortable incident, and how the guy who started the whole thing learned and grew. That doesn't happen every day! It gives me a lovely feeling of hope.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:35 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe that means less to the irreligious among us than it does to me, but as unpleasant as it can be to get funny looks in a crowd, it's far more bothersome to me to be told that my method of staying as sane and comfortable in my own body as I can is an affront to God.

I'm not religious so I'm pretty sure staying sane and comfortable in your body is the goal (this is my opinion, not my interpretation of anyone else's). I feel like what Ms. Kaur did was demonstrate that the rules you want to live by for existing in your own body, as long as you're not hurting anyone else, trump whatever rules other people come up with for you.

I also feel like it's not healthy or productive to judge someone's religion based on an imaginary conversation you had in your head. Do you know for sure that you would be judged for dealing with a mental illness in the way you saw fit? Maybe you would, maybe you won't, but it doesn't seem right to just assume and then be offended by your assumption.

And just because her particular rules come from her religion doesn't mean she didn't choose them for herself.
posted by bleep at 4:34 AM on September 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Her reaction made my day and makes me want to call up my 19 year old and give her a hug over the phone. I love that this woman is not ashamed of her appearance. Love it! We force our young woman into a box of specific beauty marks and woe betide anyone outside the box. Shame is a miasma that clings to a large percentage of young woman and often it is for small things that nobody else cares about or would even notice: a small scar, a chipped tooth, uneven eyebrows. That this young woman is so confident that she shines like a star through the internet, wow that is the part that makes my heart sing.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:24 AM on September 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


and if she is already seeing an endocrinologist, well... turns out the medical solution for the hair caused by the condition she might have is electrolysis. which is a bit of a sticky wicket for a sikh.

I'm confused by this. There are absolutely endocrinological conditions that have increased amounts of female facial hair as a symptom, PCOS for example. If she has PCOS (and I don't really see reason to assume she does beyond the presence of one symptom), then she might want to get that treated, but there's no reason to treat the hair itself, is there? Are there any endocrinological disorders where electrolysis is treatment for anything beyond the symptom of the existence of the hair? Even assuming she needs to see an endocrinologist, I don't see why the hair is more an issue than if she just has it without any serious underlying medical condition.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:28 AM on September 27, 2012


The reason she should see an endocrinologist, all cultural/ appearance values aside is that her facial hair could be caused by a serious medical condition causing her hormones to be out of whack. Someone has already mentioned PCOS as one possibility.

I knew a woman years ago, a radical feminist who had a lot of facial hair and was fine with it, also very bad skin. She was a friend of a friend, when I asked a year or so later what ever happened to her, I learned she had died of ovarian cancer that had spread, which had been the cause of her hirsute condition. She was quite young. So it would be prudent for women with excess facial hair and other possible signs of a hormonal or even malignant condition to get that checked, and treated if needed. If nothing is wrong and they are fine with facial hair, keep it, but don't ignore it and assume it is fine. I see one doctor told her it was teenage hormone levels, but she really should keep an eye on this.
posted by mermayd at 5:49 AM on September 27, 2012


i still find it silly that some technology is okay (glasses, iphone) but other technology is forbidden by god (razor).

You have a deep lack of understanding for how Sikhism works.
posted by Sara C. at 6:04 AM on September 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


She's already stated that she saw an endocronologist, so could we stop doing this thing where we medicalize her appearance? It's problematic, and not cool. It's one of the reasons that many women choose to so carefully regulate their outward appearance. Because if they don't, all sorts of people feel free giving them all sorts of feedback that can be personal, negative and generally unwelcome.

I'm fairly disappointed that people have taken this as an example of someone trying to push their personal religious views onto others. That is pretty clearly not what's happening, even if you're not familiar with Sikhs. Are we seriously letting Redditt show us up in the "Being Awesome" category? Because I am disappoint.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:27 AM on September 27, 2012 [19 favorites]


I'm not a fan of that. If, as she says, her sole concern is that she spend minimal time on her physical body and maximal time on making the world a better place, I would suggest that her physical appearance probably creates more of a disturbance and an obstruction -- all the explanations and the misconceptions -- to that goal than if she spent a modicum of effort adhering to convention. Moderation is the key.

This is victim-blaming bullshit. Please stop.
posted by odinsdream at 7:29 AM on September 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


The reason she should see an endocrinologist, all cultural/ appearance values aside is

She did. She had issues, now resolved. However because she is a Sikh she did not shave the hair that grew as the result of those hormonal issues. So, she still has it.

Folks, no one is asking you if this woman adheres to your own standards of beauty and yet many people seem to want to state for the record that she does not meet them. This is a sort of strange thing to do. She is not trying to date you. Her photo appearing on the internet without her consent is not a "hot or not" invitation.

I get the "Hey she doesn't really fit in!" thing, but again from a meta-perspective this is the same thing that happens to everyone who doesn't fit in for various reasons. People assess and judge others' appearances based on their own standards and then find them wanting in the this or that department and then comment on that as if there's some sort of unspoken standard that we're expected to follow. And, in certain contexts, there may be (work, the military) but when that context is as large as "the internet" there certainly isn't.

You don't know this woman or what her goals are. She seems decent and friendly considering the weird assholish response she originally got from the internet. You don't have to be all "Hey it's great when people subscribe to religions I don't understand!" but there's a certain usefulness in being able to appreciate and make peace with others' differences
posted by jessamyn at 7:37 AM on September 27, 2012 [29 favorites]


I'm amazed that some people interpret "this is why I am the way I am and I'm fine with it" as "you people are subverting the will of God."

At the public funeral for the victims of the temple shooting, I saw plenty of clean-shaven Sikh men with cut hair (less sure about the women, since they all wore head scarves). I don't know how they're regarded in private by more religious folk, but they're certainly not cast out as infidels or anything. One such man was the son of the temple president and the public face of the victims' families. So it would seem that differing beliefs are respected within their own culture as well as without.
posted by desjardins at 8:24 AM on September 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's unfortunate that my earlier comment seems to require clarification. I did not mean to be uncharitable in any way toward Ms. Kaur or her beliefs, nor do I perceive her to be pushing her beliefs or choices on anyone else. I wanted to share how I personally engaged with her comments because I think there is so much more to celebrate about our bodies than their so-called natural state. Yes, it is unfortunate that those who do not meet societal standards for beauty are treated in a certain way. But I think it would be equally unfortunate if we were all held to Ms. Kaur's standards, though again I'm not suggesting that's what she wants or is advocating. Ms. Kaur's religious beliefs are relevant exactly to the extent that they are the whole of what she puts forward in defense of her appearance. I agree strongly with the sentiment posted by many here that we ought to accept, cherish, and love everybody just the way they are. But I can't find that idea expressed in what Ms. Kaur actually wrote, and if it is in fact, as others have stated, what Sikhs teach and believe, then Ms. Kaur, while undoubtedly a more gifted writer than I, is still nonetheless slightly less eloquent than we might hope.
posted by kjh at 8:45 AM on September 27, 2012


kjh – thanks for clarifying a little, but I had a problem with this point in your earlier comment:

kjh: “So: baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body. The implication: others don't. Sikhs keep the body intact as a submission to the divine will. Implication: others, who do not keep the body "intact," are actively defying the divine will. Sikh don't reject the body that has been given to them. Implication: others do.”

If the statement "I believe X is sacred" implies condemnation, then it's wrong for anyone to say they believe anything is sacred. Do you really think that?
posted by koeselitz at 8:58 AM on September 27, 2012


it's interesting how many of you interpreted my suggestion to see an endocrinologist as "she needs to get rid of that facial hair and an endrocrinologist can do it." that's not what i was saying.

folks, it's outside the statistical norms for women to have that much hair on the face. it could be benign, but it probably indicates hormone levels out of whack. as a previous poster noted, this could be the symptom of a neuroendocrine tumor. that's what i was referring to.

i'm never said she does not have the right to be cool with it. she is, and that's fine. what i was trying to convey is that once the hair is grown, sometimes correcting the underlying endocrine problem leaves the hair. if you desire to conform to (western) social norms, you have to undergo electrolysis. which is the removal of hair, which is not Kesh.

i know plenty of sikhs that have cut their hair, and believe me the more orthodox among the kesh sikhs regard the hair cutters with suspicion. some to the point of "i'm never talking to you again." it's easy to cast all followers of any religion as tolerant or cool but followers of every religion are human beings, with all the same flaws and prejudices as all other humans.
posted by joeblough at 9:13 AM on September 27, 2012


folks, it's outside the statistical norms for women to have that much hair on the face. it could be benign, but it probably indicates hormone levels out of whack.

Actually, if you live in a high or middle income country (don't know if you do) then you don't know the "norm" for women's facial hair because it is generally removed.

An unknown but significant percentage of women remove facial hair. Sidhedevil above said 45%. Moreover, it is my experience that female facial hair quantity varies by ethnicity, so the abnorm for one group may be the norm for another.

Don't be sayin' something "probably" indicates "hormone levels out of whack" until you have some expertise on the topic.
posted by latkes at 10:13 AM on September 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sikhism isn't a proselytizing religion and doesn't have the belief that their faith is the One True Way for everyone. As such, they don't take the tack that their beliefs about the body (or the nature of god, or facial hair grooming, or anything else) are correct while everyone else is wrong.

I'm not Sikh, but my best friend is, and I've known a lot of Sikhs. I also spent four days in the Golden Temple a few years ago, where I learned about Sikhism straight from the horse's mouth. I can talk a little more about the nature of Sikhism, the Khalsa thing, what Sikhs specifically believe about the outward observance type stuff, attitudes toward Sikhs who shave/cut their hair/don't wear turbans/etc. if folks are interested in that. I don't want to step on any toes, though.
posted by Sara C. at 10:35 AM on September 27, 2012


it's outside the statistical norms for women to have that much hair on the face. it could be benign, but it probably indicates hormone levels out of whack. as a previous poster noted, this could be the symptom of a neuroendocrine tumor. that's what i was referring to.

Balpreet already explained in the reddit thread that she has seen doctors about it, had her hormone levels corrected, but the hair is still there because she didn't go out of her way to remove it. Seriously. Leave the woman alone.
posted by Sara C. at 10:37 AM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Electrolysis is not a medical procedure. It is a cosmetic procedure.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:43 AM on September 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


her seeing a doctor has been pointed out multiple times. people who are still bringing up a medical condition are begging the question. i liked this thread more when it was people talking about their own relationship with hair instead of critiquing this woman, her writing, her medical care, and her religion.
posted by nadawi at 10:46 AM on September 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


At the public funeral for the victims of the temple shooting, I saw plenty of clean-shaven Sikh men with cut hair (less sure about the women, since they all wore head scarves). I don't know how they're regarded in private by more religious folk, but they're certainly not cast out as infidels or anything.

My understanding is that, while there can sometimes be tension among family members (not unlike the way my mom wishes I'd go to church more), there's no stigma about not being Khalsa among the wilder religion. It's not comparable, for example, to a woman going without hijab in Iran or Afghanistan.
posted by Sara C. at 10:48 AM on September 27, 2012


ugh, that should say wider religion, not wilder religion.

Though if we want to talk about 3HO, there's always that.
posted by Sara C. at 10:51 AM on September 27, 2012


It's interesting how this thread has morphed into a debate about religion, while at the same time completely ignoring the actual miracle that took place here: somebody was mocked on the internet and - instead of flaming or crying - responded nicely to it! And then the original poster sincerely apologized!!!

When does that ever happen? How can such an act be the work of mere humans? Frankly, if none of you sees the divine hand of God visibly at work on Reddit here, I feel sorry for you all. I will pray for your souls (right after I have flogged myself in penance for using this sinful technology).
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:07 AM on September 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


latkes, you missed the part where i told everyone that my wife is an endocrinologist, and a sikh. she looked at the picture and said, "that person had better see an endocrinologist." had i not tl;dr'ed it i would have seen that she had sought medical care.

so maybe i don't have direct expertise in the subject but believe me, she does.

i'm not intending to harass balpreet with my comments. my error was tl;dr, not to point out that a board certified endocrinologist was alarmed by what she saw.
posted by joeblough at 11:53 AM on September 27, 2012


Pretty much 100% of pressure women get to do hair removal comes from other women. I'm not trying to cast aspersions on your wife, who I'm sure is a lovely woman, but I hear catty concern-trollish body image comments like this all the time.

"Have you had that looked at?" is up there with "Are you sure you should eat that?" and "Is that what you're wearing?"
posted by Sara C. at 12:11 PM on September 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


joeblough - then why come back in and state it again when it's been pointed out multiple times in this thread? i even addressed you specifically right after you made the comment. also, it's sort of hilarious that you chastise someone for missing something in your comment when you didn't even bother to figure out if your wife's concerns had already been answered.
posted by nadawi at 12:22 PM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


i'm not intending to harass balpreet with my comments. my error was tl;dr, not to point out that a board certified endocrinologist was alarmed by what she saw.

This may come as a surprise to you: Even your board-certified endocrinologist wife is not qualified to make judgements like this based on a photo on the internet. On top of that, body policing like this, when you have no idea of this person's background (i.e., maybe they're not on a traditional end of the gender spectrum) is rude.
posted by odinsdream at 12:46 PM on September 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


iamkimiam : It is tremendously unfair of you to lump my comment in with the other comments you quoted. I was speaking about Sikhism specifically in reference to my friend who almost died. It had nothing to do with this woman and her facial hair.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:53 PM on September 27, 2012


well, if you were specifically talking about your friend then why add this part? Not that any Sikhs would care, but I don't think I'm entirely cool with their religion.? in a thread about her, her hair, and her religion, you brought up your friend (who actually appears to disagree with this woman on medicine) and then say you're not cool with their religion.
posted by nadawi at 1:59 PM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought I was being pretty clear, but I can be more explicit if you like.

This woman doesn't want to shave her facial hair, who cares? It's harmless.

My friend, following similar principals, turned down potentially life-saving medication. It was a dilemma for me, because on the one hand, I want to respect peoples' religion, but on the other hand, I have very little respect for a religion that counsels people to turn down life-saving medication.

I didn't know that Sikhs had such leeway to decide how to practice their religion. This changes my perception slightly.

I shared my anecdote because I thought it was relevant. The other comments that iamkimiam were addressing the subject of this post, and sharing their opinions about what she should/shouldn't do. I was talking about something different.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:25 PM on September 27, 2012


(The other comments that iamkimiam quoted were addressing the subject of this post)
posted by Afroblanco at 4:27 PM on September 27, 2012


you missed the part where i told everyone that my wife is an endocrinologist, and a sikh.

I sure did. My bad!
posted by latkes at 4:33 PM on September 27, 2012


If the statement "I believe X is sacred" implies condemnation, then it's wrong for anyone to say they believe anything is sacred. Do you really think that?

Well, first, it needs to be said that I didn't characterize anything Ms. Kaur said as being "wrong." I don't believe that she did say anything wrong, even if she were to exactly and explicitly state the things I am inferring from her statement. Part of religious toleration is recognizing and accepting that things we find normal, acceptable, or even expected can be considered wrong, sinful, harmful, or even (at the most extreme) worthy of eternal damnation by people who hold different beliefs. So if you're trying to equate "implies condemnaton" with "wrong," then that isn't what I meant to say: I don't believe or agree with that.

The more interesting question is whether or not Ms. Kaur truly believes that those who choose to modify their outward appearance to suit their tastes are engaging in morally incorrect behavior. (I didn't use the word condemnation.) Without getting into nitpicky semantics or parsing, I think a reasonable reading of Ms. Kaur's statement is one in which she is setting up a contrast between how Sikhs view the body and how non-Sikhs view the body. One needn't be a proselytizer or a Bible-thumper or a fundamentalist to be able to label the actions of another person as morally wrong according to his or her own belief system. If I believe that driving a car is wrong, and I see you driving a car, you are still (to me) doing something that is wrong, even if my sense of tolerance prevents me from dragging you out of your car and beating you with my shoe.

I hope that makes sense. I wanted to share how I engaged with the story and Ms. Kaur's words because many people seemed to be taking them as a full-throated defense of having confidence in your own body and your own appearance, whatever they may be, whereas I was seeing a strict conformance to a standard--just a different kind of standard.

I had to kind of smirk when I read a comment in response to my first post; Mister Cheese wrote:

I think it's uncharitable to read Kaur's response as an implicit condemnation of those who don't see the body as a gift of the Divine.

Of course, I reiterated several times in my post that I DO see the body as a gift of the Divine. Ms. Kaur and I happen to disagree on what our obligations are regarding that gift. She seems to think that we insult our creator if we change any aspect of what we have been given. I see it differently. I see a creator who has given us, not just a life and a body, but an entire world; an entire creation. I think we best praise our creator when we use the things we have been given--our hands, our voices, yes, our bodies--to create great, glorious works of art.

Of course, as the artist, how you choose to do that is entirely up to you.
posted by kjh at 5:17 PM on September 27, 2012


I dunno. She seems to think she would be insulting her creator. I don't see her saying anything about anyone else's relationship to their creator or lack thereof.
posted by rtha at 5:41 PM on September 27, 2012


Part of religious toleration is recognizing and accepting that things we find normal, acceptable, or even expected can be considered wrong, sinful, harmful, or even (at the most extreme) worthy of eternal damnation by people who hold different beliefs.

You're projecting a lot of stuff onto Sikhism that doesn't belong there.

Sikhs don't believe it's morally wrong to cut or remove hair.

They don't believe it's harmful, either.

Nor do they believe that cutting or shaving your hair will bring about eternal damnation. In fact, I'm relatively sure that Sikhism as a religion doesn't have a concept of "eternal damnation" in the sense that Christianity does.

Some Sikhs (not even all Sikhs!) choose not to cut or shave their hair as a reminder that the body is sacred, as a way of setting themselves apart from other groups, and as part of what they see as their duty to god. That some Sikhs choose to do that is not a moral judgment on people who don't make that choice, whether they are Sikh or not.

Furthermore, by and large, Sikhs don't really care about the religious habits of other people. They don't proselytize. It's really no different to them how people of other faiths style their facial hair.

I guess it's possible that Baljeet is a super orthodox extremist of some kind and is silently judging you and that Norelco you keep under the bathroom sink. But it's highly unlikely.
posted by Sara C. at 5:50 PM on September 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Metafilter: silently judging you and that Norelco you keep under the bathroom sink.
posted by sweetkid at 6:26 PM on September 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


I was teased mercilessly as a child because of certain aspects of my appearance that I have no control over. The experiences left me with some serious body image and anxiety issues. In an effort to deal with it, I took a page out of Sikh/Rastafarian playbook and stopped cutting my hair. About 4 years ago I stopped brushing it. At this point, I've got dreadlocks of all sizes and I really love them because they're mine. When people ask me how long I intend on keeping them, I'm happy to say "until they fall out".

The choice was not at all divinely inspired; I am about as atheist as someone could be. But it is something that helped me take great strides in actually accepting the way I came into this world. My parents and grandparents are/were amazing people and their DNA is part of my constitution, and to be ashamed of myself is to be ashamed of them.

This woman is really amazing and I find her attitude really inspiring.
posted by triceryclops at 8:51 PM on September 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


My parents and grandparents are/were amazing people and their DNA is part of my constitution, and to be ashamed of myself is to be ashamed of them.

I want to stand up and applaud this. That is beautiful.
posted by sweetkid at 9:54 PM on September 27, 2012


shivohum: "I'm not a fan of that. If, as she says, her sole concern is that she spend minimal time on her physical body and maximal time on making the world a better place, I would suggest that her physical appearance probably creates more of a disturbance and an obstruction -- all the explanations and the misconceptions -- to that goal than if she spent a modicum of effort adhering to convention. Moderation is the key."

You know, sometimes being disturbing is also a useful contribution to the world.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:30 AM on October 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Sikh protests at JK Rowling's 'mustachioed' girl are misplaced Balpreet Kaur writes in the Guardian
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:55 AM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


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