An eloquent response

Has anyone read the story about this picture?

picture from CBC’s website

If you haven’t, you can read the story from the CBC’s website here. 

I was doing some research on a website for educators when I saw the tweet for the article in the the side bar.  The site author encouraged teachers to share the story with their high school students.  I thought about sharing it with my grade six class, using my smart board, but decided against it.  (There is some explicit language in the comments that might have caused some problems.)

Instead of showing them the picture and article on-line, I told them the story of the “bearded Sikh girl”.  I could see my students’ eyes squint and lower jaws slacken as I described her facial hair.  Their expressions softened when I explained how her picture went viral, eliciting hateful comments from around the world, unbeknownst to her.  The beautiful part of the story, and the point I wanted to hit home to my students, was her response.  After some of her friends informed her that her picture had been taken–and that it was causing quite a virtual stir, she bravely left her own comment.  Here is a snippet:

…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. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body – it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being…  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 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?…  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. 🙂

Several days after she posted her response, the person who snapped her picture and started the whole thing apologized.

There are a couple of things I find inspiring about this.  The first, of course, is this young woman’s confident and healthy view of her body.  The second thing is the fact the guy apologized.  Yes, he did something stupid, but he also had the guts to say sorry.

As I was wrapping up the story for my students, I pointed out that none of them currently had facial hair but it was only a matter of time before the boys, and probably some of the girls, would have to start dealing with it.  (You can imagine how well that went over with a pile of eleven-year-olds.)  After calming them down, and trying to re-focus on the ideas of courage and accepting our bodies; facial hair or no facial hair,  a flurry of hands shot up around the room.  Mostly, they all wanted to tell about a time they had seen someone with a turban: “When I was in Calgary…” and  “When I was in Toronto…” etc.  (How can you tell we live in a rural community?)

It’s highly unlikely any of them will remember this story in a year or two when their bodies grow even more gangly and awkward and perhaps no one benefited from the re-telling as much as I.  But, at thirty-five, I’m not too old to hear the message again.


6 thoughts on “An eloquent response

  1. Tricia,
    Thanks for sharing this story. In my class this week we are talking about gender and conflict. It seems that anyone who does not fit society’s gender norms is ostracized. As for me, I only get odd looks and a few stares when people realize that both Alicia and I are women and that we are holding hands. I suppose we are bucking the gender norms as well.

    • Hey Jodi, thanks for your comment.
      we should be talking over coffee, not our keyboards!
      I actually thought of you when I read the part in her comment about her t-shirt (story-telling and understanding different faiths…)
      Have a great week… sounds like your class will be interesting,

  2. Hey Tricia, I thought of the book, “Wonder” by R.J.Palacio when I read your post. May be a neat middle school book connection to your class discussions. Glad that school is going well for you!

    • Thanks Michi, I just ordered it from the library (after reading your comment). I wish I could spend the whole day reading books to my students. They love it. I look forward to talking literacy next time you are home. 🙂

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