Soniah Kamal

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'Islam is not Pakistan's religion; Marriage is'

Monday, October 15, 2012

Balpreet Kaur and Women and Facial Hair

Yes many, if not most, women are able to grow a rather luxuriant mustache and goatee. But though you may see these features on very old women who truly couldn't give a shit anymore, facial hair plus young women is an anomaly. Most women will not leave the home unless they're waxed, threaded, lazored and stripped of every hair that could possibly offend the universe at large.  Years ago I made a conscious decision to leave my arm hair alone no matter what I was wearing. When you have black hair that is clearly visible on a complextion such as mine, and you come from a culture where any hair on women (accept head, eyebrows and eyelashes) is considered gross then, yes, me not 'taking care' of my arms is an issue for too many. The shit I get for hairy arms, for barely (pun intended) going au naturelle, is hard enough but a woman wearing her facial hair is up up up here when it comes to bravery: Balpreet Kaur you are an inspiration. Readers: would you be able to do this?
Balpreet's photo was originally posted by a blogger in Reddit's Funny category wondering 'what the!!!!' But Balpreet wrote back. And the blogger apologized because, really, why should a girl with a hairy face be funny? Good for you to apologize Reddit blogger because a woman with hair on her face is not funny anymore than a guy with no hair on his face.
Following is Balpreet's reply: 
"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."

On another note, I'm getting a bit of flack for making a big deal about this when there are 'more serious' issues and real heroines such as Malala (Here is my post on Malala, the fourteen year old shot by the Taliban). Malala is a marvel in so many respects but also because she is just so darn young (my utmost respect to all the adolescents out there who put their beliefs to the test)  Balpreet Kaur may be older but whether it's a Balpreet or a Malala, each is an inspiration in her own  own unique way for refusing to give in to societal expectations, patriarchy or an injustice. My God there are girls who do no give a shit about more than what they weigh, what they look like, and whether they look cool or hot. Circumstances made Malala into who she is, and Balpreet chose to be brave: As far as I am concerned both are equally deserving utmost respect.

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