Balpreet Kaur Speaks Out With Love Against Reddit Haters
“I don’t think I reacted any differently than anyone else would have.”
Earlier this week, on the Reddit sub-category r/funny – that is, the area to post humorous content – a user posted a stealth photo taken of a young Sikh woman, Balpreet Kaur, with the caption “I’m not sure what to conclude from this”. The comment itself was a sarcastic reference to the fact that the woman in the photograph has a beard.
Mocking and belittling strangers online is nothing new, especially on sites built with user-generated content. Balpreet found her way to the thread after being alerted by a friend, and responded – not with anger, hurt, or in attack against the original poster. She chose to offer an education for those who would have it, an explanation of why she chose to let her facial hair be instead of keeping her face clean-shaven. As a Sikh, her faith stipulates that the body should not be modified, as you are given the tool you need for your journey through life. This includes not shaving. By not focusing on altering herself in the name of acceptable beauty, Balpreet explains, she can instead cultivate her inner virtues, and concentrate her life on “creating change and progress for this world in any way I can”.
Her message, and the cheerful patience with people who had insulted her, inspired many. We are inundated daily with images of what young women are supposed to look like, and as we internalize those images, we perpetuate the cycle. The idea of rejecting an external focus in favour of cultivating a stronger inner self would likely be difficult for many young women in today’s social climate of aggressive beauty standards.
“I was the typical high school girl. I shaved, I waxed, and threaded all of the hair on my face and body,” says Balpreet, when I asked if she has always held this attitude – like many of us, she struggled with self-image and insecurity through her teens. But then, she came to the realization that she was limiting her self-perception to only how others saw her. “I went through my own journey trying to figure out who I am as a person, and what I need to become stronger every day and it all resulted in delving into my faith-tradition and accepting that I was different, and I should not deny what I am.”
Balpreet went on to explain that baptized Sikhs look to liberate their spirits through loving actions that benefit not only themselves, but all of humanity. “By just accepting what my body is, what my face looks like, I have had moments where I feel bigger than my own skin; what I stand for, and the ideals that I wish to act upon are quite bigger than this physical body.”
As for Reddit, Balpreet’s optimism and kindness shine through in her perspective of the incident – she is “glad that we could use this as a space to elevate the conversation to something positive: to know that a positive body image is far more important than anything because it is a form of self-love and confidence.”
Over the past few days, she has had many fellow Ohio State University students approach her to tell her that her posts resonated with them, and that she inspired them. “All of the responses have been super encouraging and uplifting to know that there are people that understand and don’t really judge other people; it makes my heart swell to know that unconditional love and support can exist for everyone.”
After the outpouring of support and the number of commenters who called out the post for its ignorance and disrespect, the poster contacted Balpreet to apologize, in a move she called “very courageous”.
“I was so surprised and in awe of his character when he apologized so sincerely. We talked and he actually went to the same school district as I did – it’s always a cool thing to realize that this world is getting smaller and smaller every day.”
Balpreet is currently studying neuroscience in hopes of getting into medical school, and runs the OSU Sikh Student Association with fellow students Jagjit Singh and Sukhjit Kaur. In corresponding with her, I was immediately struck by her bubbly, open personality and the kindness she speaks for both individuals and humanity as a whole. The fact that she turned an upsetting situation into a chance to educate and inspire others is a true testament to her devotion to bettering the world.
Her message is a simple one. “Let us cherish those moments that allow us to feel that we are bigger than our own bodies, that make us realize that we [are] better than what we think we are, and believe that we can be that which we dream we are. That sums everything up.”
Thank you to Balpreet for giving us this interview, and we look forward to seeing her continue to inspire.
Written by Emma Tarver