Body Image Inspiration: Sacredness of the Body
Part of why I have been taking a break from this blog recently is that I was taking a break from the internets in general. I have a natural inclination to focus on the negative in general in my own life, and being bombarded with heinous news stories online (like this one I came across today, holy shmoly what is wrong with this damn world!!) is often too much for me to bear and causes me to spiral in a bad direction where I lose all faith in humanity and have no desire to participate in society.
Anyways! My dear friend (thank you, Streetflash!) recently sent me an article that appeared on the internets that did not make me want to rip my own hair out and curl up in the fetal position…shocker of the century!
I’m not sure how to explain this story myself, as the article does so pretty fantastically (and I’m not so well-versed on sites such as Reddit), so I’m going to let it speak for itself:
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.
Wow. As if that weren’t awe-inspiring enough, the original poster then replied and apologized for his ignorance and role in trying to shame this amazing young woman.
So, there are an unbelievable amount of incredible layers to this story: on the surface, this is an amazing example of taking something meant to be shameful and hurtful and turning it into something empowering, by using the internet to stand up for oneself and educate, not to be bullied or beat down. But this is also a powerful lesson in courage, strength, and true beauty.
How often have we heard someone say, with such compassion and grace, “I look the way I look because it is more important for me to focus on my inner self, my true self, my legacy and destiny, than to focus on my external self/ascribe to traditional standards of beauty/please anyone else”? I honestly am having trouble thinking of another example. Yes, she eloquently explains her belief system (and the Sikh traditions are fascinating), but there is a lesson in this for all of us, no matter our religion, ethnicity, race, and even gender. We do not have to accept shame or shaming. We do not have to be anyone but who we are. We do not have to apologize for who we are or how we look. We do not have to change because of what anyone else thinks of us or tries to make us think about ourselves. And beauty is who you are, not how you look.
(Image courtesy of Jezebel, thank you!)