Sikh beauty

Sundari’s recent post, addressing the portayal of Sikhs in an ad for the upcoming Spinning Wheel festival, brings up an interesting tension for Sikh women- the conflict between modern ideals of beauty, and the requirements of the Sikh faith.

sikh_women.jpgGenerally (and unfortunately) women tend to value themselves (whether consciously or unconsciously) according to social valuations placed upon women… which revolve mostly around ideas of outer beauty- trends which vary a bit across region and time, but are all generally superficial. Women who have completely overcome this unconscious embrace of ideals of beauty are extremely rare. For those who think is untrue- think about how many times you’ve heard a female friend talk about the bad day she was having- many of the complaints probably had something to do with the way she felt she looked that day (that might not be the best example, but it’s the first that comes to mind). How we feel is too closely related to how we feel we look.

These social valuations of beauty are especially problematic for Sikh women in particular because these values are totally opposed to an important part of Sikh identity- our kesh. They are also problematic for all women because we’re not valuing what really matters- our thoughts, ideas and actions which really create who we are- but a superficial farce. Finally, these valuations are problematic because many modern ideals of beauty are unhealthy (but enough has been said about these last two points in general gender conversations that I don’t want to dwell on them).

The challenges and overt racism that Sikh men face in the US today because of their kesh are undeniable. But the solutions that address men’s kesh (mostly political responses, creating social awareness) don’t carry over as solutions for women.

The role that kesh (and thus Sikh identity) plays in the lives of Sikh women is totally different from men. It relates more to what many women face in many parts of the world (responding to ideals of beauty), but is unique to us as Sikh women by our unique responsibility to keep our kesh (in all its variations). That responsibility, coupled with the unfortunate reality that women value themselves by superficial ideals of beauty means that we value ourselves by principles that are totally opposed to our Sikh identity.

Each of us has to decide for themselves how much they’re willing to commit to their faith- that is a personal decision. But we’d be doing ourselves a favor by valuing ourselves according to our actions and decisions instead of others’ ideas of our appearance.

Some past discussions re Sikh women:

1. Recasting Gender for Sikh Women

2. Relocating Gender in Sikh History

3. Sikh Women at the Bristol Gurdwara


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36 Responses to “Sikh beauty”

  1. sonny says:

    great thought provoking post. i often get frustrated with our community's tendency to sum up everything about sikh identity (and our advocacy and education work to preserve our rights) in the image of the sikh man – turban and beard. i think serious conversations need to be had about this and about the many struggles that sikh women deal with in keeping (or not keeping) their kesh and the complex relationship that sikh women and men alike (though in different ways i think) have with contemporary standards of beauty. whether we like it or not, we've all been socialized to perceive beauty in certain ways and to see certain things (i.e. body hair, big beard, etc.) as ugly or undesirable. just to quote rehat maryada and say ppl shouldn't be removing any of their hair under any circumstances doesn't get us anywhere. we need to really engage in a conversation about beauty standards and do our best to shape and change mainstream beauty standards to be more inclusive, and certainly less racist and sexist. i could go on rambling but will stop in hopes that the conversation continues.

  2. sonny says:

    great thought provoking post. i often get frustrated with our community’s tendency to sum up everything about sikh identity (and our advocacy and education work to preserve our rights) in the image of the sikh man – turban and beard. i think serious conversations need to be had about this and about the many struggles that sikh women deal with in keeping (or not keeping) their kesh and the complex relationship that sikh women and men alike (though in different ways i think) have with contemporary standards of beauty. whether we like it or not, we’ve all been socialized to perceive beauty in certain ways and to see certain things (i.e. body hair, big beard, etc.) as ugly or undesirable. just to quote rehat maryada and say ppl shouldn’t be removing any of their hair under any circumstances doesn’t get us anywhere. we need to really engage in a conversation about beauty standards and do our best to shape and change mainstream beauty standards to be more inclusive, and certainly less racist and sexist. i could go on rambling but will stop in hopes that the conversation continues.

  3. kanyesingh says:

    Interesting post – it seems to cut both ways, some Sikh men aren't considered attractive because of their beards while some Sikh women aren't because their hair is too long or they have visible facial hair. I rmemeber seeing Sikh girls bleach their hair to hide its visibility – I guess it was their compromise, keeping their hair but still trying to reflect ideals of beauty.

  4. kanyesingh says:

    Interesting post – it seems to cut both ways, some Sikh men aren’t considered attractive because of their beards while some Sikh women aren’t because their hair is too long or they have visible facial hair. I rmemeber seeing Sikh girls bleach their hair to hide its visibility – I guess it was their compromise, keeping their hair but still trying to reflect ideals of beauty.

  5. Nepantla says:

    This discussion raises a common dilemma faced by our community: What should we do in the face of various forms of exclusion that we face as a result of our difference? Should we seek a form of inclusion into the mainstream, or instead seek to affirm our difference and forge an alternative path to the mainstream? My feeling is that we far too often choose the former, and clamour for inclusion into the mainstream. This inevitably undermines the radical substance of our tradition, and instead leaves us on a rather sad, and often futile, search for inclusion into things that we would/should otherwise be looking at very critically, and into which we'll probably never be fully accepted anyway.

    Of course, the latter path of seeking an alternative way of being, outside of the mainstream, is much more difficult. When it comes to questions of beauty, being different can come at great costs to our self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. In order to fight this, I think we, as a community, really need to talk about, and become much more clear and articulate about, the value of our alternative path in our contemporary world, so that we can affirm this alternative path for ourselves. On the issue of beauty, I think one starting point is to recognize that the genius of our tradition is that it sets limits on how far we can commodify every aspect of ourselves (including our bodies), which is clearly the goal of contemporary capitalism and its consumer culture.

  6. Nepantla says:

    This discussion raises a common dilemma faced by our community: What should we do in the face of various forms of exclusion that we face as a result of our difference? Should we seek a form of inclusion into the mainstream, or instead seek to affirm our difference and forge an alternative path to the mainstream? My feeling is that we far too often choose the former, and clamour for inclusion into the mainstream. This inevitably undermines the radical substance of our tradition, and instead leaves us on a rather sad, and often futile, search for inclusion into things that we would/should otherwise be looking at very critically, and into which we’ll probably never be fully accepted anyway.

    Of course, the latter path of seeking an alternative way of being, outside of the mainstream, is much more difficult. When it comes to questions of beauty, being different can come at great costs to our self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. In order to fight this, I think we, as a community, really need to talk about, and become much more clear and articulate about, the value of our alternative path in our contemporary world, so that we can affirm this alternative path for ourselves. On the issue of beauty, I think one starting point is to recognize that the genius of our tradition is that it sets limits on how far we can commodify every aspect of ourselves (including our bodies), which is clearly the goal of contemporary capitalism and its consumer culture.

  7. Mewa Singh says:

    Nepantla,

    Fascinating analysis.

    So what would be the institutional and structural support mechanisms that would help facilitate such an alternative vision of beauty?

    How would we facilitate more Sikh men and women to "buy" into such an idea, where for the most part, our ethnicity only allows for 'exoticism' (both mens and womens)?

    What are lessons we can draw from other communities that may have been successful in engaging in such an enterprise?

  8. Mewa Singh says:

    Nepantla,

    Fascinating analysis.

    So what would be the institutional and structural support mechanisms that would help facilitate such an alternative vision of beauty?

    How would we facilitate more Sikh men and women to “buy” into such an idea, where for the most part, our ethnicity only allows for ‘exoticism’ (both mens and womens)?

    What are lessons we can draw from other communities that may have been successful in engaging in such an enterprise?

  9. sonny says:

    really interesting discussion. certainly we are not alone in being outside of mainstream beauty standards, though our issues obviously have their particularities. one historical example we can learn from is the whole "black is beautiful" movement in the 60s and 70s, which was a sort of cultural movement alongside the black power movement. interesting parallel of hair being a focal point of where some of these beauty standards play out. for black folks, hair straightening, for sikhs hair cutting/shaving/bleaching and beard tying/gelling/etc. here's a link with a bit more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_is_beautiful

  10. Mewa Singh says:

    Sonny,

    Ok let's see if we can flesh out the example you cited.

    Using the "black is beautiful" campaign, we can see that a number of different organizations, artists, and individuals promoted this message. The 'afro' quickly merged as one symbol of the movement.

    In Punjab, over the past few years you have seen some institutional moves (efforts of organizations such as the Akal Purakh Ki Fauj) as well as a number of artists lauding the Sikh-Panjabi male youths to, again, take up the turban. I do believe that a shift in mind-set is occurring, as Jodha has blogged in a previous post about what he terms the 'Sikh turn' and I have commented about it as well, using his terminology, although the outcome is still rather ambiguous.

    However, returning to the issue being discussed, what do you suggest to be the rallying signs for Sikh women? Would it be the dastar as well? Would it be unshaven legs (I'm sort of thinking about the India Arie song)? What would be the needed institutional, individual, and organizational efforts to highlight a 'Sikh woman's beauty'? What would such a movement look-like? What would be the rallying point?

  11. sonny says:

    really interesting discussion. certainly we are not alone in being outside of mainstream beauty standards, though our issues obviously have their particularities. one historical example we can learn from is the whole “black is beautiful” movement in the 60s and 70s, which was a sort of cultural movement alongside the black power movement. interesting parallel of hair being a focal point of where some of these beauty standards play out. for black folks, hair straightening, for sikhs hair cutting/shaving/bleaching and beard tying/gelling/etc. here’s a link with a bit more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_is_beautiful

  12. Mewa Singh says:

    Sonny,

    Ok let’s see if we can flesh out the example you cited.

    Using the “black is beautiful” campaign, we can see that a number of different organizations, artists, and individuals promoted this message. The ‘afro’ quickly merged as one symbol of the movement.

    In Punjab, over the past few years you have seen some institutional moves (efforts of organizations such as the Akal Purakh Ki Fauj) as well as a number of artists lauding the Sikh-Panjabi male youths to, again, take up the turban. I do believe that a shift in mind-set is occurring, as Jodha has blogged in a previous post about what he terms the ‘Sikh turn’ and I have commented about it as well, using his terminology, although the outcome is still rather ambiguous.

    However, returning to the issue being discussed, what do you suggest to be the rallying signs for Sikh women? Would it be the dastar as well? Would it be unshaven legs (I’m sort of thinking about the India Arie song)? What would be the needed institutional, individual, and organizational efforts to highlight a ‘Sikh woman’s beauty’? What would such a movement look-like? What would be the rallying point?

  13. Reema says:

    My concern with the suggestions for new ideas of Sikh beauty thus far is that they are still only focused on outer, physical attributes of beauty. The glamorization of Sikh beauty, focusing on physical characteristics wouldn't help women shift the way we value ourselves.

    We already put too much emphasis on our physical attributes, and we need our self worth to NOT be defined by physical characteristics- whatever physical characteristics those may be.

    Can beauty be non-physical? I think so. A campaign for Sikh beauty could focus on women's actions.

    And one way to visually represent that no particular physical attribute is 'ideal' compared to others is to use visuals that glamorize ALL physical traits, not just a particular few.

  14. Mewa Singh says:

    (sorry for the length, this is about to put me on sizzle status)

    Reema,

    I understand what you are suggesting. In a theoretical conversation, I am in complete agreement with you. However, such a conversation should be waged by all women and is hardly limited to Sikh women. Still it finds little appeal or little ability to create change, because it is limited to theoretical talk and doesn't make the transition into the practical.

    To use another historical example, for feminist movements of the 1960s, the burning of the bra had tremendous symbolic and social appeal.

    Historian Eve Rosenhaft writes:

    the image of burning bras has strong positive resonances. It is a reminder, first, that the feminist critique of patriarchy has always been conscious of the power of symbols and symbolic representation both in confirming and in subverting the social order; this insistence has often been the subject of ridicule or (as in the 'Political Correctness debate') demonization. I don't think the self-conscious analogy with draft-card burning is forced or trivial; as a symbolic act, both represent refusals to collaborate in other people's appropriations of one's body. Of course having to wear a bra/a corset/a gender/caste uniform in the form of highly sexualised clothing is of a different order from being sent to die on the battlefield. But I wonder whether thirty years on we have forgotten how tyrannical the dress code for girls and women was until the 1970s, what it took to resist – for example – the pressure to put a daughter into a 'training bra' at the age of 11 or so, and how much the everyday experience of women's liberation had to do with wearing what you wanted and feeling comfortable in your clothes.

    Anthropologist Ann Wentworth writes:

    As someone who was an undergraduate at the time, I remember that going without a bra was considered to be a defiant act–a rejection of authority (parents) and related to the whole counter-cultural "dress code" that preferred tattered jeans and tie-dyed T-shirts to the dresses we'd been required to wear in high school. The idea that someone might actually burn her bra brought the whole matter of defiance (symbolized by dress and appearance) into the public realm. It is not always visibly apparent if a young woman went without a bra, but if she could be accused of having burned one, she undoubtedly didn't wear one. I imagine this connection between going bra-less and defiance of authority/tradition contributed greatly to the resonance of the bra-burning myth among feminists and non-feminist alike.

    Later bra-burning became mundane, trivialized and used as an epithet ("bra-burning feminists") against feminism, still as these feminist scholars have suggested, one must be cogniscent of the symbols of oppression and either invert or reject and replace them. The energies released by the generation that utilized symbolism would be later channelled by subsequent feminist movements into the almost successful ERA movement.

    Within a Sikh context, the powers of symbols are even more apparent. What is the symbolic value of Guru Gobind Singh giving a woman a kirpan (in a region where women are expected to give rakhris to their brothers for protection)? TREMENDOUS, I would respond. What is the symbolic value of telling the down-trodden that you are now SINGHS and KAURS and raising the social conscious of a people that had never experienced political freedom? TREMENDOUS, again, I would respond.

    Symbols and symbolic representations are not merely 'physical' as you are suggesting, but they are both representation AND sources of oppression.

    When women in Europe and America were symbollically burning bras, it became evident that she was rejecting certain structural beliefs of physical beauty and conformity.

    In my previous comment, I was merely asking questions – what would be the symbols and anti-symbols employed? It is also imporant to remember that by a woman rejecting dominant social pressures of perceived beauty, it is itself an action.

    Theory must go beyond theory. If you are serious about having real force in terms of re-creating Sikh beauty, then you must seriously engage with symbols. ALL activists must do this. Symbols are the life-blood of the people.

  15. Reema says:

    My concern with the suggestions for new ideas of Sikh beauty thus far is that they are still only focused on outer, physical attributes of beauty. The glamorization of Sikh beauty, focusing on physical characteristics wouldn’t help women shift the way we value ourselves.

    We already put too much emphasis on our physical attributes, and we need our self worth to NOT be defined by physical characteristics- whatever physical characteristics those may be.

    Can beauty be non-physical? I think so. A campaign for Sikh beauty could focus on women’s actions.

    And one way to visually represent that no particular physical attribute is ‘ideal’ compared to others is to use visuals that glamorize ALL physical traits, not just a particular few.

  16. Mewa Singh says:

    (sorry for the length, this is about to put me on sizzle status)

    Reema,

    I understand what you are suggesting. In a theoretical conversation, I am in complete agreement with you. However, such a conversation should be waged by all women and is hardly limited to Sikh women. Still it finds little appeal or little ability to create change, because it is limited to theoretical talk and doesn’t make the transition into the practical.

    To use another historical example, for feminist movements of the 1960s, the burning of the bra had tremendous symbolic and social appeal.

    Historian Eve Rosenhaft writes:

    the image of burning bras has strong positive resonances. It is a reminder, first, that the feminist critique of patriarchy has always been conscious of the power of symbols and symbolic representation both in confirming and in subverting the social order; this insistence has often been the subject of ridicule or (as in the ‘Political Correctness debate’) demonization. I don’t think the self-conscious analogy with draft-card burning is forced or trivial; as a symbolic act, both represent refusals to collaborate in other people’s appropriations of one’s body. Of course having to wear a bra/a corset/a gender/caste uniform in the form of highly sexualised clothing is of a different order from being sent to die on the battlefield. But I wonder whether thirty years on we have forgotten how tyrannical the dress code for girls and women was until the 1970s, what it took to resist – for example – the pressure to put a daughter into a ‘training bra’ at the age of 11 or so, and how much the everyday experience of women’s liberation had to do with wearing what you wanted and feeling comfortable in your clothes.

    Anthropologist Ann Wentworth writes:

    As someone who was an undergraduate at the time, I remember that going without a bra was considered to be a defiant act–a rejection of authority (parents) and related to the whole counter-cultural “dress code” that preferred tattered jeans and tie-dyed T-shirts to the dresses we’d been required to wear in high school. The idea that someone might actually burn her bra brought the whole matter of defiance (symbolized by dress and appearance) into the public realm. It is not always visibly apparent if a young woman went without a bra, but if she could be accused of having burned one, she undoubtedly didn’t wear one. I imagine this connection between going bra-less and defiance of authority/tradition contributed greatly to the resonance of the bra-burning myth among feminists and non-feminist alike.

    Later bra-burning became mundane, trivialized and used as an epithet (“bra-burning feminists”) against feminism, still as these feminist scholars have suggested, one must be cogniscent of the symbols of oppression and either invert or reject and replace them. The energies released by the generation that utilized symbolism would be later channelled by subsequent feminist movements into the almost successful ERA movement.

    Within a Sikh context, the powers of symbols are even more apparent. What is the symbolic value of Guru Gobind Singh giving a woman a kirpan (in a region where women are expected to give rakhris to their brothers for protection)? TREMENDOUS, I would respond. What is the symbolic value of telling the down-trodden that you are now SINGHS and KAURS and raising the social conscious of a people that had never experienced political freedom? TREMENDOUS, again, I would respond.

    Symbols and symbolic representations are not merely ‘physical’ as you are suggesting, but they are both representation AND sources of oppression.

    When women in Europe and America were symbollically burning bras, it became evident that she was rejecting certain structural beliefs of physical beauty and conformity.

    In my previous comment, I was merely asking questions – what would be the symbols and anti-symbols employed? It is also imporant to remember that by a woman rejecting dominant social pressures of perceived beauty, it is itself an action.

    Theory must go beyond theory. If you are serious about having real force in terms of re-creating Sikh beauty, then you must seriously engage with symbols. ALL activists must do this. Symbols are the life-blood of the people.

  17. Phulkari says:

    I agree and a good way of framing the issue.

    Within a Sikh context, the powers of symbols are even more apparent. What is the symbolic value of Guru Gobind Singh giving a woman a kirpan (in a region where women are expected to give rakhris to their brothers for protection)? TREMENDOUS, I would respond.

    The symbolic value of Guru Gobind Singh Ji giving women a kirpan is tremendous because it symbolized that she could protect herself, which in turn represented a form of independence and liberation, particularly in a community where protection is often over-extended from responsibility to a level of ownership. Guruji's action made the statement that no one owns you, as it did with he gave Sikh women the name "Kaur". Furthermore, one of the many beauties of Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s giving the kirpan was that it attacked the notion of physical protection. A space where gender equity is often very apparent.

    I remember an amardhari woman, who had recently amritshakhed, describe that once she put on her kirpan in a way it could be seen, she immediately noticed a difference in the way people, particularly men, looked at her when she was walking alone (aside from the “oh that is different” look). She felt as though her kirpan clearly made a statement “don’t mess with me” because I can use this to protect myself. She said it gave her a certain kind of security, confidence, and protection she had not felt before.

  18. Phulkari says:

    I agree and a good way of framing the issue.

    Within a Sikh context, the powers of symbols are even more apparent. What is the symbolic value of Guru Gobind Singh giving a woman a kirpan (in a region where women are expected to give rakhris to their brothers for protection)? TREMENDOUS, I would respond.

    The symbolic value of Guru Gobind Singh Ji giving women a kirpan is tremendous because it symbolized that she could protect herself, which in turn represented a form of independence and liberation, particularly in a community where protection is often over-extended from responsibility to a level of ownership. Guruji’s action made the statement that no one owns you, as it did with he gave Sikh women the name “Kaur”. Furthermore, one of the many beauties of Guru Gobind Singh Jis giving the kirpan was that it attacked the notion of physical protection. A space where gender equity is often very apparent.

    I remember an amardhari woman, who had recently amritshakhed, describe that once she put on her kirpan in a way it could be seen, she immediately noticed a difference in the way people, particularly men, looked at her when she was walking alone (aside from the oh that is different look). She felt as though her kirpan clearly made a statement dont mess with me because I can use this to protect myself. She said it gave her a certain kind of security, confidence, and protection she had not felt before.

  19. Reema says:

    i agree about the use of symbols- my concern was the use of dastar or unshaven legs, AS a dastar or unshaven legs, as alternative ideals of beauty, instead of signifying a value- i misunderstood how you were thinking of them. as symbols, this threat decreases.

  20. Reema says:

    i agree about the use of symbols- my concern was the use of dastar or unshaven legs, AS a dastar or unshaven legs, as alternative ideals of beauty, instead of signifying a value- i misunderstood how you were thinking of them. as symbols, this threat decreases.

  21. justasikh says:

    Historically, man has painted belief on their body for thousands of years. Hair, no hair, turbans, clothes, makeup, paint, shoes, tattoos, robes, holy strings, or an engineer's ring.

    What gives beliefs a life, momentum, and value? If they are symbols, do we give symbols the power over us, or do we use symbols to empower our own lives?

    Is the concept of sikh beauty for sikh women overblown compared to the treatment of turbaned sikh men by the majority of sikh women?

    I find Turbaned sikh males are treated far harsher by the majority of ladies born into a sikh family, compared to non-sikhs.

  22. justasikh says:

    Historically, man has painted belief on their body for thousands of years. Hair, no hair, turbans, clothes, makeup, paint, shoes, tattoos, robes, holy strings, or an engineer’s ring.

    What gives beliefs a life, momentum, and value? If they are symbols, do we give symbols the power over us, or do we use symbols to empower our own lives?

    Is the concept of sikh beauty for sikh women overblown compared to the treatment of turbaned sikh men by the majority of sikh women?

    I find Turbaned sikh males are treated far harsher by the majority of ladies born into a sikh family, compared to non-sikhs.

  23. J.Kaur says:

    ok, i have a somewhat different outlook on this issue… and i'm afraid it's not terribly academic. :)

    i was not born in a sikh family. i grew up cutting my hair, wearing makeup and jewelry, worrying about fashion, weight, skin, etc. and i was pretty much miserable. as the article said, much of my "bad day" feelings had to do with my outward appearance.

    after i was called by my Guru, i made a conscious decision to stop letting modern fashion be a factor in my life. i stopped removing my hair, started wearing a dastaar, started wearing more simple and modest clothes, stopped wearing makeup, jewelry, etc… i began wearing a very heavy, thick iron kara. i began wearing my kirpan in a visible manner.

    this has become my fashion, my sense of identity, my beauty. i'm not beautiful because of something i've done, not because of my dress or hair, not because of the way my features are set or the colour of my eyes or the texture of my skin. i'm beautiful because i have been given a gift from my Guru and i have accepted it gratefully. in other words, it's not me who is beautiful, it's Guru Roop. sure, people stare, people comment, people say "shh" to their kids when their kids ask "mommy, what does that lady have on her head?" :) but i guess it just doesn't matter to me as much as it used to. this is a blessing.

    sikhi is a higher calling. it's a stage we reach in our life, with Guru ji's grace. trying to redefine fashion in a way that will make fashion minded women want to be more visibly sikh isn't very practical. sikhs already have a set fashion, given to us by our Guru. if and when the time is right, we realize it and follow it to the best of our ability.

    i don't mean to sound like this is about me, because it's not, really. i just wanted to share a story of a transition from normal fashion obsessed young woman to Sikh. it comes with time, with Guru's grace, with the company of positive Sangat, with good role models (many of mine are young girls, but they inspire me every day!). it comes with knowledge of Sikh history and Gurbani. it comes from seeing visibly Sikh women doing everyday things, in everyday life. it comes from beginning to see maya for what it is… something we can't take with us.

    anyway, sorry to ramble, i guess it's an issue that's close to my heart. i've lived both sides. and i have a lot less bad days as a sikh. :D

  24. J.Kaur says:

    ok, i have a somewhat different outlook on this issue… and i’m afraid it’s not terribly academic. :)

    i was not born in a sikh family. i grew up cutting my hair, wearing makeup and jewelry, worrying about fashion, weight, skin, etc. and i was pretty much miserable. as the article said, much of my “bad day” feelings had to do with my outward appearance.

    after i was called by my Guru, i made a conscious decision to stop letting modern fashion be a factor in my life. i stopped removing my hair, started wearing a dastaar, started wearing more simple and modest clothes, stopped wearing makeup, jewelry, etc… i began wearing a very heavy, thick iron kara. i began wearing my kirpan in a visible manner.

    this has become my fashion, my sense of identity, my beauty. i’m not beautiful because of something i’ve done, not because of my dress or hair, not because of the way my features are set or the colour of my eyes or the texture of my skin. i’m beautiful because i have been given a gift from my Guru and i have accepted it gratefully. in other words, it’s not me who is beautiful, it’s Guru Roop. sure, people stare, people comment, people say “shh” to their kids when their kids ask “mommy, what does that lady have on her head?” :) but i guess it just doesn’t matter to me as much as it used to. this is a blessing.

    sikhi is a higher calling. it’s a stage we reach in our life, with Guru ji’s grace. trying to redefine fashion in a way that will make fashion minded women want to be more visibly sikh isn’t very practical. sikhs already have a set fashion, given to us by our Guru. if and when the time is right, we realize it and follow it to the best of our ability.

    i don’t mean to sound like this is about me, because it’s not, really. i just wanted to share a story of a transition from normal fashion obsessed young woman to Sikh. it comes with time, with Guru’s grace, with the company of positive Sangat, with good role models (many of mine are young girls, but they inspire me every day!). it comes with knowledge of Sikh history and Gurbani. it comes from seeing visibly Sikh women doing everyday things, in everyday life. it comes from beginning to see maya for what it is… something we can’t take with us.

    anyway, sorry to ramble, i guess it’s an issue that’s close to my heart. i’ve lived both sides. and i have a lot less bad days as a sikh. :D

  25. KK says:

    Ok, the bottom line is this – there is no reason why a Sikh girl should be forbidden to remove prominent facial hair OR should be made to feel bad for wanting to do so. Furthermore, it actually goes beyond superficial ideals of beauty, so your discussions above (interestingly enough, particularly from males) are nonsense. There is a huge difference between a girl wanting to remove her black moustache, and someone who religiously follows the latest fashions to adhere to an ideal of beauty. Each person has a right to feel comfortable in their own skin. I am a Sikh girl and have lost count of fellow Sikh female friends who went through life meek, ashamed and utterly lacking confidence to raise their heads because of their prominent facial hair.

  26. J.Kaur says:

    hi "KK". actually, there IS a reason women should not remove their hair. our guru sahib told us not to. there's no exemption in the rehet maryada or in gurbani saying women don't have to follow guru sahib's hukam.

    ??? ??? ??? ???? ?????? ?

    on each and every hair, the Lord abides.

    waheguru ji ka khalsa, waheguru ji ki fateh!

  27. KK says:

    Ok, the bottom line is this – there is no reason why a Sikh girl should be forbidden to remove prominent facial hair OR should be made to feel bad for wanting to do so. Furthermore, it actually goes beyond superficial ideals of beauty, so your discussions above (interestingly enough, particularly from males) are nonsense. There is a huge difference between a girl wanting to remove her black moustache, and someone who religiously follows the latest fashions to adhere to an ideal of beauty. Each person has a right to feel comfortable in their own skin. I am a Sikh girl and have lost count of fellow Sikh female friends who went through life meek, ashamed and utterly lacking confidence to raise their heads because of their prominent facial hair.

  28. J.Kaur says:

    hi “KK”. actually, there IS a reason women should not remove their hair. our guru sahib told us not to. there’s no exemption in the rehet maryada or in gurbani saying women don’t have to follow guru sahib’s hukam.

    ??? ??? ??? ???? ?????? ?
    on each and every hair, the Lord abides.

    waheguru ji ka khalsa, waheguru ji ki fateh!

  29. KK says:

    Well, I suppose I am a Sikh who believes that God recognises good people – whether or not they cut their hair. There are many 'Sikhs' who don't cut their hair, but who do many evil things. My faith is a tolerant faith, and a way of life – tolerant of goodness, in all its forms.

  30. KK says:

    Well, I suppose I am a Sikh who believes that God recognises good people – whether or not they cut their hair. There are many ‘Sikhs’ who don’t cut their hair, but who do many evil things. My faith is a tolerant faith, and a way of life – tolerant of goodness, in all its forms.

  31. JB says:

    wow, KK needs to make more research about sikhi….I totally agree with J.Kaur
    but as a sikh girl, I must say it is really hard to be accepted in society with facial-hair.
    I am born in a sikh family, I took amrit few month ago, and NOW i am going through a difficult stage
    I started noticing my facial hair, it was not a big deal before, but you know yr12/13 can be hell
    people started noticing, and i started noticing how my friends couldn't stop llooking at my "facial hair", i got really uncomfortable… i did not know what to do, so i seeked help/adivce in the internet…i saw J.Kaurs entry…really inspiring…and it kinda helped me…thank you…so…
    I believe it is hard, but if one believes in god and does ardaas: please let me accept my appearance, then one will automatically feel better, and this is what every girl has to do…including me.
    and by the way…bleeching is totally wrong, because then you could dy your hair too…but some people just need little support, we can just hope that we get the support of god, if you know what i mean.

  32. JB says:

    wow, KK needs to make more research about sikhi….I totally agree with J.Kaur
    but as a sikh girl, I must say it is really hard to be accepted in society with facial-hair.
    I am born in a sikh family, I took amrit few month ago, and NOW i am going through a difficult stage
    I started noticing my facial hair, it was not a big deal before, but you know yr12/13 can be hell
    people started noticing, and i started noticing how my friends couldn't stop llooking at my "facial hair", i got really uncomfortable… i did not know what to do, so i seeked help/adivce in the internet…i saw J.Kaurs entry…really inspiring…and it kinda helped me…thank you…so…
    I believe it is hard, but if one believes in god and does ardaas: please let me accept my appearance, then one will automatically feel better, and this is what every girl has to do…including me.
    and by the way…bleeching is totally wrong, because then you could dy your hair too…but some people just need little support, we can just hope that we get the support of god, if you know what i mean.

  33. Ember says:

    Nepantla said:
    "Should we seek a form of inclusion into the mainstream, or instead seek to affirm our difference and forge an alternative path to the mainstream?"

    Friends, this discussion was a long time ago, but the issues still seem real. I am not a Sikh lady, but I love what I see in Sikh culture and reverence.

    I would like to offer the thought that there is a third alternative, and one we badly need here in UK. Instead of either forming a separate path and identity, or becoming absorbed into the mainstream (which can be very cynical and secular) I humbly suggest that what we need is for the Sikh community to infuse the wider community with all that is fair and lovely in Sikh culture.

    Women who are not Sikh also struggle with issues like modesty and accepting hair on ladies' faces and bodies; to have the solidarity and witness of Sikh sisters in accepting themselves as they are, finding confidence in the beauty of holiness, is a great encouragement.

  34. Ember says:

    Nepantla said:
    "Should we seek a form of inclusion into the mainstream, or instead seek to affirm our difference and forge an alternative path to the mainstream?"

    Friends, this discussion was a long time ago, but the issues still seem real. I am not a Sikh lady, but I love what I see in Sikh culture and reverence.

    I would like to offer the thought that there is a third alternative, and one we badly need here in UK. Instead of either forming a separate path and identity, or becoming absorbed into the mainstream (which can be very cynical and secular) I humbly suggest that what we need is for the Sikh community to infuse the wider community with all that is fair and lovely in Sikh culture.

    Women who are not Sikh also struggle with issues like modesty and accepting hair on ladies' faces and bodies; to have the solidarity and witness of Sikh sisters in accepting themselves as they are, finding confidence in the beauty of holiness, is a great encouragement.

  35. Yanna Kaur says:

    Really Good Article

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