Time to rethink “beauty”.

Reddit Users Attempt to Shame Sikh Woman, Get Righteously Schooled

Before I post my latest Mad Men Challenge hilarity I want to talk about our perceptions of “beauty”. Every week there was a new challenge at Sew Weekly and every week I would mumble and cut and create. The point was to do the exercise, create something within the parameters of the challenge and share our process and thoughts. I am tending towards the same schedule now only because I like deadlines and schedules but I give myself a “little” more slack than the once a week deadline I kept to last year.

Every time I go to do photos I clear a chunk of time and make sure my hair, make-up and accessories are in line with my “vision”, just like the contestants on Project Runway, only without the separate hair and make-up crew : ) Heaven forbid if we aren’t all “put together” right?

(These are my own internal ‘rules’, just to be clear)

It’s all about packaging. It’s how we perceive ourselves and how we want to be perceived. I NEVER go to work without makeup on, it’s just the way I function. People tell me I’m “pretty” but I’ve never thought of myself that way. I wasn’t the cutest one growing up, I didn’t have an outgoing personality, the big house, fancy car or whatever else the vapid kids of my generation found important. I didn’t care much but it didn’t make me “popular”. I was smart and I knew in the long run that was more important but it was tough hearing “If you only….” growing up.

Last year the photo above made its rounds on facebook. Here is the story:

‘A Reddit user going by the handle “european_douchebag” posted a surreptitious photo of a Sikh woman with the caption “i’m not sure what to conclude from this.” The user’s apparent confusion stems from the fact that the woman—bound by her religion not to cut her hair or alter her body—has an abundance of dark, untrimmed facial hair. The mind of european_douchebag was SO INCREDIBLY BLOWN by the fact that women have hair on their bodies—and, yes, faces—and that some women are bold, self-assured, and pious enough not to cave to western beauty standards (and gender expectations), there was nothing for him to do but post her photo online and wait for the abuse to flood in.

But then something totally lovely and unexpected happened. The woman in the photo responded:

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.

And then, THEN, something even more miraculous happened—the original poster apologized:

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.

Holy shit, internet, I don’t even know you anymore! I never thought something would come out of the seeping necrotic abscess that is Reddit that would actually make my day better, but wow. MY HEART GREW THREE SIZES THIS DAY.’

So this woman, with no makeup and merely wearing a t-shirt and yoga pants, is more beautiful than me on MANY levels. She is absolutely right – her kids will forget what she looks like and what she sounds like but they won’t forget her actions and how she’s going to change the world. She’s already changed mine a little bit.

If you want to see the original post you can see it here:


Here is another woman that is looking at society’s prejudices and photographing her experiences.

“Pictures of people who Mock me”.

As Balpreet said “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.”

Why aren’t we, as a society, looking more at the smiles and what lies behind the face? As my daughter says, Time to evolve.


6 thoughts on ““Beauty”

  1. Thank you for posting this. It makes me feel better and not so alone as a not normal looking woman. I am hairy and always tried to stay true to myself: this is what I am. This is what people see, when they look at me. I will not shave. But sometimes it is hard with the shocked reaction of people on the street. Just because I have hairy legs. I feel uncomfortable, when people stare at them. Even though I think I have the right to wear a skirt in the summer, often I do not out of fear of strange reactions.
    I will try to tell me more often: this is the way I am. I am me and nobody else can be me. So why try to change that and try to emulate a kind of beauty that is so not natural and so very narrow. Because beauty really does lie somewhere else. And always in a smile. And you made me smile. Thank you!

  2. Wow, I am blown away. I honestly hate reddit because the majority of it seems to be horribly mean, degrading, “troll” posts about things just like this only the person rarely has a chance to defend themselves. Beauty is so rarely associated with what’s inside… Thank you for posting this amazing perspective.

  3. This is a really beautiful piece, thanks for writing it! I’ve had issues with my self-image for a very long time, up until quite recently. I’ve been convinced that I was ‘ugly’ for years since that was what other people called me, and when even several strangers bother to shout it at you it must be true. Sewing has certainly helped me to get over this: I can now make clothes that I feel truly comfortable in, and I wear them with confidence. I still have days when looking in a mirror is hard, but I now see that the strangers in the street were wrong after all.

    • Annette, I went to your blog and you are LOVELY! Why is it one negative thing a stranger says can outweigh the good and supportive things we KNOW, deep down, about ourselves? I used to have the same problem : ) I’m glad sewing has helped you get over this, when we can create things for our “outside” selves that express how we feel on the inside I personally think it gives us strength. There are times I strap on my virtual Wonder Woman bracelets to fend off the world and if I can do it in some fabulous outfit I made myself so much the better : ) Women like Balpreet, who doesn’t fit into our western standard of beauty, give me hope that maybe, just maybe, we can all learn something and evolve.
      Keep looking in the mirror, even when it’s hard, because who you are on the inside is what most people will see on the outside : ) And the rest? Don’t mind them because they don’t matter!

  4. Thank you for posting such an inspiring and uplifting story just when I’m having a really bad day. Ms. Kaur is one amazing lady.

    • Oh Lana, I’m sorry you were having a bad day. I hope it ended a little better (or at least not worse). I’m glad this helped a little. Virtual hugs to you : )

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