Hard Kaur (Revisited)

Updated and extended, August 9
I try not to do this too often, but I realized I may not have adequately contextualized what I was getting at when posting on Hard Kaur. I’ve tried to extend the analysis and conversation below:

Taran (Hard) Kaur Dhillon
I’ve been thinking about Hard Kaur (Taran Kaur Dhillon) a lot lately, primarily because I’ve been flirting with the idea of buying her debut album, Supawoman. Hard Kaur is a tricky personality for me. On one hand, girlfriend has overcome the adversity of her hard knock life as a pioneer in her field. On the other hand, her conflation of Sikh and Punjabi identity, her often unimpressive rapping, and her totally not-Sikhi-friendly lyrics make me reconsider her as a role model. Is she an emblem for Sikh women’s empowerment, or perhaps just a symbol for women of color artists? Her moniker and image are dramatically at odds with one another. So what do we embrace, or eschew, from her, and can we negotiate how this works for young Sikh women?

Many point to HK’s intense image and claim that she is not a Sikh role-model, and others would claim she’s not a particularly good role model for other young women, either. I agree with the former and disagree with the latter (more after the jump).

HK has been pretty clear about stating that, while raised in a Sikh household, she does not identify with Sikhi or as a Sikh. However, her interviews indicate a connection and affiliation with being nationally Indian, and culturally Punjabi and Sikh. This gave me pause; what does it mean to be “culturally Sikh”? Often in debates around the ills that plague the Sikh community, those of us who identify as Punjabi Sikh  separate Punjabi identity as our “cultural” backdrop and Sikhi as our “religious” identity. I would argue that a third category has formed because of our unique identity as a diasporic nation; we now see a growing number of “cultural Sikhs” who do not necessarily claim or identify with the religion or religious community itself. Unlike “Singh,” Kaur is a wholly Sikh name; you don’t mean non-Sikhs who have this as a family name or otherwise. What does it mean, then, to go by the name “Kaur” when you don’t identify with the practice and philosophy behind it?

Could it be that HK is emblematic of that third “category” as someone who identifies with a cultural experience, but not the religious background? There are many vectors across which we could deconstruct her image as an artist and as a female rapper/MC, and there’s a lot of room for analysis in terms of her role in a male-dominated industry. I don’t think it’s worth wasting our time arguing over whether she is a Kaur or not, but I do think it’s worth asking how her high-profile (and ever-growing) personality impacts the identities of Sikhs who are religious, and of individuals who may not identify as Sikh but may have been raised in Sikh homes.


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33 Responses to “Hard Kaur (Revisited)”

  1. Sundeep Singh says:

    One can easily imagine the total decline of the Sikh panth when a nonsikh like HardKaur is a role model for young Sikh women. The feminism of sexiness as empowering is not only a trap but completely at odds with the Guru's notions of feminism involving inner strength, grace, and dignity. Not to mention that a Sikh should have someone as a role model who is at least kind of in line with the Guru's teachings rather than someone who completely promotes the opposite at every turn.

    Besides the numerous female role models in history (which are not mentioned enough, if you wish to read sakhis about them I recommend Macauliffe's books on the Sikh dharm) there are many modern day role models. The leaders of Kaurs United being an example. If you prefer singers, here's an inspiring one:

    .

    Role models abound in everyday life, one must simply take off their blinders and note that a person need not be famous (not that you're saying they do, some people just think like that). The strength shown by one woman, the grace of another, the knowledge of a third, can all combine to be role models of living the qualities that one wishes to possess.

  2. Sundeep Singh says:

    One can easily imagine the total decline of the Sikh panth when a nonsikh like HardKaur is a role model for young Sikh women. The feminism of sexiness as empowering is not only a trap but completely at odds with the Guru’s notions of feminism involving inner strength, grace, and dignity. Not to mention that a Sikh should have someone as a role model who is at least kind of in line with the Guru’s teachings rather than someone who completely promotes the opposite at every turn.

    Besides the numerous female role models in history (which are not mentioned enough, if you wish to read sakhis about them I recommend Macauliffe’s books on the Sikh dharm) there are many modern day role models. The leaders of Kaurs United being an example. If you prefer singers, here’s an inspiring one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqGy5J_mkbI.

    Role models abound in everyday life, one must simply take off their blinders and note that a person need not be famous (not that you’re saying they do, some people just think like that). The strength shown by one woman, the grace of another, the knowledge of a third, can all combine to be role models of living the qualities that one wishes to possess.

  3. what's in a nam says:

    sometimes life kicks you so much that you need a release…

    that release isn't always a good one…

    people do what they have to in order to breath… and survive…

    they're entitled to live the way they need to…

    yeah I'm not sure I'd be looking at her as a 'Sikh' role model…but I think strength and perseverance should be admired

  4. what's in a name says:

    sometimes life kicks you so much that you need a release…

    that release isn’t always a good one…

    people do what they have to in order to breath… and survive…

    they’re entitled to live the way they need to…

    yeah I’m not sure I’d be looking at her as a ‘Sikh’ role model…but I think strength and perseverance should be admired

  5. mel says:

    i lurve hard kaur.. she is super hawt.. hard kaur rocks!..!

  6. mel says:

    i lurve hard kaur.. she is super hawt.. hard kaur rocks!..!

  7. harinder says:

    I think she is good and rocks.

    She is so well adapted to her surroundings not behaving like some of us would say " HOLIER THAN THOUGH ATTITUDE".

    Past woman may have lessons for us but they cannot be our passport to future.

    We got to live in present with an eye on future and not in Past glory.

  8. harinder says:

    I think she is good and rocks.
    She is so well adapted to her surroundings not behaving like some of us would say ” HOLIER THAN THOUGH ATTITUDE”.
    Past woman may have lessons for us but they cannot be our passport to future.
    We got to live in present with an eye on future and not in Past glory.

  9. Holier says:

    @Harinder: It's THOU, not THOUGH. Elementary. school.

  10. Holier says:

    @Harinder: It’s THOU, not THOUGH. Elementary. school.

  11. yogi says:

    Hard kaur is asmart personality,,n i admire her not only as a rap singer but as a role model also…..u really rocks if singhs r king then dis kaur is queen

  12. yogi says:

    Hard kaur is asmart personality,,n i admire her not only as a rap singer but as a role model also…..u really rocks if singhs r king then dis kaur is queen

  13. jin says:

    she is hawt & rocks

  14. jin says:

    she is hawt & rocks

  15. Dostum says:

    I have never liked her and especially her name. My opinion about her changed when she appeared in a reality show. They showed how she reached at this place.. ! That was a thing to be seen. I salute her bravery ! Hers is a life full of unbelievable struggles. Her mother even did petty jobs like cleaning, washing utensils etc. She has come a long way.Hats off to her :)

  16. Dostum says:

    I have never liked her and especially her name. My opinion about her changed when she appeared in a reality show. They showed how she reached at this place.. ! That was a thing to be seen. I salute her bravery ! Hers is a life full of unbelievable struggles. Her mother even did petty jobs like cleaning, washing utensils etc. She has come a long way.Hats off to her :)

  17. Simran says:

    lol A role model? hehehe hehehe. A Woman doesnt have the physical strength that a man possesses, therefore her strength lies in her dignity, her spirit to sacrifice all for her convictions, and most importantly her grace; the way she carry's herself. Hard Kaur is a punk, nothing eloquent about her. She feels that she has to 'huff and puff' to get anywhere. I've seen many people like her, they burn so much aggresive energy, for a while everything seem cool, but as they get older into their late 30's, 40's, they realise that they were never really in control of themselves and allowed their lives to spiral out of control. Just keep an eye on her, follow her career, you'l see!

  18. Simran says:

    Yeah she's getting loads of attention, and the limelights on her, the egos exuberated, but one day it'l all come to an end and the lights shall switch off, and in hindsight much of what she had achieved would have been superficial.

  19. Simran says:

    lol A role model? hehehe hehehe. A Woman doesnt have the physical strength that a man possesses, therefore her strength lies in her dignity, her spirit to sacrifice all for her convictions, and most importantly her grace; the way she carry’s herself. Hard Kaur is a punk, nothing eloquent about her. She feels that she has to ‘huff and puff’ to get anywhere. I’ve seen many people like her, they burn so much aggresive energy, for a while everything seem cool, but as they get older into their late 30’s, 40’s, they realise that they were never really in control of themselves and allowed their lives to spiral out of control. Just keep an eye on her, follow her career, you’l see!

  20. Simran says:

    Yeah she’s getting loads of attention, and the limelights on her, the egos exuberated, but one day it’l all come to an end and the lights shall switch off, and in hindsight much of what she had achieved would have been superficial.

  21. Dostum says:

    It is surprising to see how people like to play Gods ! How they give judgements about someone's life ( surprise, surprise about the life that has not come yet)

    Please come out of your looser mind-set. Never be so judgemental. Now we atleast know her name, which she might have earned with great effort, but where are you placed in the state of affairs ? No body knows you ?

  22. Dostum says:

    It is surprising to see how people like to play Gods ! How they give judgements about someone’s life ( surprise, surprise about the life that has not come yet)
    Please come out of your looser mind-set. Never be so judgemental. Now we atleast know her name, which she might have earned with great effort, but where are you placed in the state of affairs ? No body knows you ?

  23. Simran says:

    Dostum you should learn to express your views on the subject matter and not to get personal. HARD KAUR was the topic, not myself! I merely expressed my views. Everyone has different opinions. So you go at me for expressing mine, what have I said to you? Nothing! This is what you did in the 'Dera Sachkhand Page' Maujja Jatt posted a comment and you went at him, and he didnt even say anything to you. [deleted…if you are criticizing others, it makes no sense, to engage in the same…Admin Singh]

  24. Simran says:

    Dostum you should learn to express your views on the subject matter and not to get personal. HARD KAUR was the topic, not myself! I merely expressed my views. Everyone has different opinions. So you go at me for expressing mine, what have I said to you? Nothing! This is what you did in the ‘Dera Sachkhand Page’ Maujja Jatt posted a comment and you went at him, and he didnt even say anything to you. [deleted…if you are criticizing others, it makes no sense, to engage in the same…Admin Singh]

  25. simran says:

    lol 'At least we know her name which she earnt with great effort' what nonsense. There are porn stars who are well known, who everyone in that fraternity have heard of, does that mean we should admire them? She uses the word Kaur in her surname only because it makes her name resemble the word Hardcore. Maharaj Guru Gobind Singh Paatshah didn't introduce the word to be misused and certainly didn't intend for Sikh Women to behave the way she does. Example, in one of her songs the lyrics go. ' Mai Talli Hogayee' . Her lyrics glorify decadence – living it up. An impressinable female using her as a role model would be likely to rebel against authority, against her parents – with the attitude that she can do whatever she wants, being answerable to no one. Panjabis have always been socially conscious, looking out for one another, her whole way of thought seems to match with a western orienatated mindset, nothing authentically Indian about her.

  26. simran says:

    lol ‘At least we know her name which she earnt with great effort’ what nonsense. There are porn stars who are well known, who everyone in that fraternity have heard of, does that mean we should admire them? She uses the word Kaur in her surname only because it makes her name resemble the word Hardcore. Maharaj Guru Gobind Singh Paatshah didn’t introduce the word to be misused and certainly didn’t intend for Sikh Women to behave the way she does. Example, in one of her songs the lyrics go. ‘ Mai Talli Hogayee’ . Her lyrics glorify decadence – living it up. An impressinable female using her as a role model would be likely to rebel against authority, against her parents – with the attitude that she can do whatever she wants, being answerable to no one. Panjabis have always been socially conscious, looking out for one another, her whole way of thought seems to match with a western orienatated mindset, nothing authentically Indian about her.

  27. Camille says:

    A Woman doesnt have the physical strength that a man possesses, therefore her strength lies in her dignity, her spirit to sacrifice all for her convictions, and most importantly her grace; the way she carry’s herself.

    Simran, I'm interested in your interpretation of how women should behave relative to social norms. It prescribes a very narrow, specific, essentialist, and class-informed vision of women's identities and behaviors.

    As I've mentioned before, I am ambivalent about Hard Kaur, but I am also cognizant of her life story and the context that provides. I'd be curious to hear more about how your vision of behavior translates across the many women challenging historic barriers to participation who may not fall into the "women's grace" prescription you've provided.

  28. Camille says:

    A Woman doesnt have the physical strength that a man possesses, therefore her strength lies in her dignity, her spirit to sacrifice all for her convictions, and most importantly her grace; the way she carry’s herself.

    Simran, I’m interested in your interpretation of how women should behave relative to social norms. It prescribes a very narrow, specific, essentialist, and class-informed vision of women’s identities and behaviors.

    As I’ve mentioned before, I am ambivalent about Hard Kaur, but I am also cognizant of her life story and the context that provides. I’d be curious to hear more about how your vision of behavior translates across the many women challenging historic barriers to participation who may not fall into the “women’s grace” prescription you’ve provided.

  29. Dostum says:

    If you could see, I started my post with the words "I have never liked her and especially her name"

    That's because of her name resembles the word 'hardcore'.

    But after I saw her on a reality show (especially her mother's story) I stopped disliking her. Who was I to give judgement about others ? She really worked hard. Agreed, she sang songs which I never heard nor I have any intention to ever hear, but nobody can deny that she carved a niche in cut throat competition of Hindi movies playback singing …

    And that too inspite of so much hardships. She might have derived word 'hard' from her life's hardships, who knows ?

    May be your own vision is blurred.

  30. Dostum says:

    If you could see, I started my post with the words “I have never liked her and especially her name”
    That’s because of her name resembles the word ‘hardcore’.
    But after I saw her on a reality show (especially her mother’s story) I stopped disliking her. Who was I to give judgement about others ? She really worked hard. Agreed, she sang songs which I never heard nor I have any intention to ever hear, but nobody can deny that she carved a niche in cut throat competition of Hindi movies playback singing …
    And that too inspite of so much hardships. She might have derived word ‘hard’ from her life’s hardships, who knows ?
    May be your own vision is blurred.

  31. simran says:

    Hi Camille. I disagree with your comment 'it prescibes a narrow…etc'. Every adult female should have the right to live the way they want. Hard Kaur in my opinion is a negative role model. The fact that she endured hardship doesn't wash with me, as to achieve anything noteworthy in life requires overcoming adversity. A person can choose either to fight or quit. The real stresses of life are suffering poverty, living with physical disability or illness, or something else comparable. If she really went through hell, the experiences would have humbled her, and her maturity would come out in her artistry and lyrics that at best are superficial and full of cliche verses. Lyrics stem from the songwriters being, I find her lyrics and her ideals expressed in them to be shallow, not worthy of any merit to be considered as a role model. There are many women, past and present, who acted against the social norms of their times, but the difference was they fought for virtuous principles and ideals in a manner that was gracefull and that had celebrated their femininity, and even gained the admiration and respect even from macho chauvenistic men. For example I been reading about Maharani Jind Kaur, a powerfull woman who commanded thousands, dictated to battle hardened Generals, by her gracefull personality. Such qualities are worth aspiring to, changing the system from within, not by developing an aggresive demeanor, going your own way, which can only result in alienating those around you. You get the gist.

  32. simran says:

    Hi Camille. I disagree with your comment ‘it prescibes a narrow…etc’. Every adult female should have the right to live the way they want. Hard Kaur in my opinion is a negative role model. The fact that she endured hardship doesn’t wash with me, as to achieve anything noteworthy in life requires overcoming adversity. A person can choose either to fight or quit. The real stresses of life are suffering poverty, living with physical disability or illness, or something else comparable. If she really went through hell, the experiences would have humbled her, and her maturity would come out in her artistry and lyrics that at best are superficial and full of cliche verses. Lyrics stem from the songwriters being, I find her lyrics and her ideals expressed in them to be shallow, not worthy of any merit to be considered as a role model. There are many women, past and present, who acted against the social norms of their times, but the difference was they fought for virtuous principles and ideals in a manner that was gracefull and that had celebrated their femininity, and even gained the admiration and respect even from macho chauvenistic men. For example I been reading about Maharani Jind Kaur, a powerfull woman who commanded thousands, dictated to battle hardened Generals, by her gracefull personality. Such qualities are worth aspiring to, changing the system from within, not by developing an aggresive demeanor, going your own way, which can only result in alienating those around you. You get the gist.

  33. neha says:

    hi tanu i m yr classfellow in k.v i.i.t kanpur.
    neha