Sep. 28, 2012 at 2:21 PM ET
A Reddit user who posted a link to a photo of a young Sikh woman with facial hair in Reddit's "funny" thread was met with a torrent of criticism — and an incredibly gracious response from the woman who said the photo was of her. The story has gone viral around the world, Facebook pages are springing up in support of the young woman, who so far has said little other than what she seems to have shared on Reddit.
The person who started it all identified himself “european_douchebag” on Reddit (but now has deleted his name). He unleashed the furor when he posted the comment "I'm not sure what to make of this" with a link to a photo of the woman, shown standing in a line, checking her phone.
At first, there were some of the typically juvenile comments we've all grown to expect from such juvenile posts. But the tide turned quickly as Redditors harshly chastized "european_douchebag" — "Don't do this. Don't take pictures of people you think look weird and post them online," posted "baumkramer." And then the woman believed to be the subject of the photo weighed in, not with barbs, but with benevolence, explaining:
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."
...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.
Kaur leveled "european_douchebag" with her words. And, to his credit, he apologized, a rarity these days on the interwebz.
"Douchebag" is a 20-year-old from Florida, according to the New York Daily News, who said admitted the the initial post was "ignorant."
"I never even thought about how she felt or what she was going through. I really admire her faith," he told the newspaper. (He said he doesn't want his name used, and that's understandable considering the less-than-nice reaction he's received from many around the globe.)
We've reached out to Kaur for comment about the experience, and haven't heard back yet.
But more than 1,500 responses have been posted so far on Reddit, most applauding Kaur for her courage and grace.
"This is a lovely lesson in tolerance, forgiveness and getting along with it," wrote "bilva." "European douchebag thought it was harmless what he was doing, Balpreet stayed tolerant and explained ... he realized he was wrong, he went to her and apologized ... and his courage is as exemplary. To say I am sorry I was stupid, is not easy. That is why we have world wars and religious wars."
"You are amazing and a tribute to your culture," posted "byroncox." "you're absolutely gorgeous just the way you are! i applaud you."
Even those women who wax and pluck their facial hair to meet modern-day standards of beauty gave Kaur kudos.
"I wish we all could see the value of a person without looking at how much makeup they have on," wrote "MindfulSpirit." "I have been told how beautiful and put together I am .... yet none of these people know how often I have to pluck my bloody chin ... I wonder how many of these people would tell me the same thing if I let it all grow and hang out ... I hope one day I can live an enlightened life and be at peace with what I have and how my body is." Kaur, she wrote, has achieved "what many of us never will."
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