05 October 2012

A Lesson on Tolerance and Cyber-Bullying

Cyber Bullying Lessons
Cyber-bullying may take a new form every day, but it never ceases to cause pain and hurt to its target. Whether young and old, rich or poor these people are never spared from receiving abusive emails, being the target of a hate page on a social networking and even being photographed in a compromising position.

There are also many ways on how to deal with bullying and most of these tools are available online. They boast of success stories and effective means of countering cyber-bullying and its effect. However, none of these resources could have predicted the dramatic way Balpreet Kaur dealt with her bullying situation and how tolerance, support, and inspiration can make a big difference.

Kaur was photographed while she was waiting in line at the Ohio State University Library, which is nothing special really. However, the photo was ridiculed online because she was wearing a large, black turban, a T-shirt, yoga pants and glasses with her sparse facial hair clearly visible.

Comments immediately started pouring in, making fun of her appearance, asking if she was transgendered, and taking her to task for not plucking, waxing, or shaving.

After a friend told her about the thread, Kaur decided to respond to the taunts herself—and take the opportunity to educate people at the same time. She wrote in several posts:
"Hey, guys. This is Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture. I'm not embarrassed or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positive] 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. My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body… 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."

"The overarching principal is this body is a tool for service. We have to maintain and take care of it while cherishing its original form."

"My hair doesn't stop me from being normal or doing service so it’s not a hindrance. I've been to the doctor regarding this and it's just a side effect of my hormone levels during my teenage years. The hormones have returned to normal, but the hair is still there. That's fine :) I don't regret anything, nor do I view it as an unfortunate thing."
As a baptized Sikh woman, Kaur is forbidden from altering her body, as it is considered a sacred gift from God. She could go to the hospital and take medicine because one should be healthy in order to be of service to others. But cutting one's hair or removing one's facial hair is forbidden, even if societal norms dictate otherwise.

Her words quickly inspired readers on Reddit and elsewhere to reevaluate their reactions. A cross-post on the Facebook page for Kaurista garnered more than 6,750 likes and more than 850 comments.

"I know that I don't have the courage to live that purely," Shannon Dolce commented on Facebook. "I am inspired to live MORE true to how my creator sees me, though."

"I think we can agree that even the non-religious can benefit from taking a page from your book -- thank you," wrote a Redditor named "anothertimearound".

"You are awesome. If your faith has made you this well-adjusted and positive and secure in your own skin, and focused on the things in life that truly matter, then I am glad that there are Sikhs in this world." Reddit reader "Anna Mosity" wrote. "The world could use more people like you."

A few days later, the Reddit user who posted the picture started a new thread to apologize to Kaur.

"I felt the need to apologize to the Sikhs, Balpreet, and anyone else I offended when I posted that picture," the Redditor wrote. "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."

"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." he continued. "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."

Kaur says that she's happy to spend time explaining her religion and her appearance to people. "I do not think explaining myself and the way I am is a waste of energy because storytelling in itself is a way to fight the apathy in this world," she explained in a follow-up post on Thursday. "By simple interactions like this, we can better understand each other and make this world more open and loving even if it is just one person or many."