Last time we checked it was 2012, but Ikea doesn’t seem to realize that. Everyone’s favorite cheap furniture catalog is not so popular these days after they deliberately deleted women’s faces and/or photoshopped their bodies out of the Saudi version of its catalog. It has a lot of people upset–and it also moves them into the category of sexist, hypocritical furniture dealer (do I smell a boycott coming on?).
IKEA says they did indeed print different catalogs in Saudi Arabia because, well, their franchise in the Islamic Kingdom is apparently uncomfortable with showing women and their bodies throughout the catalog. So instead of displaying a woman brushing her teeth with her little boy, she was photoshopped out. And instead of showing a woman eating dinner with her family, the entire family was removed. Even a female Ikea designer was deleted from a photo (while her three male counterparts remained). Why? Because it’s Saudi Arabia. A land where women are depicted in advertising only if their offensive arms, legs and heads are covered. A land where women must obey their male guardians. A land where the first woman was only allowed to start competing in the Olympics this year. A land where gender equality is clearly lacking.
And Ikea played right into that–despite the fact that they have a foundation whose mission is to create employment for women in developing countries. Kind of a double standard, don’t you think? Like, they say part of their values are to support and empower women, and then…this. They won’t even show them in a Saudi catalog.
Some people will argue that they were simply going along with the culture of that country. And some will say it’s really Saudi’s fault. But it’s not. Ikea went along with it. They deleted those photos of the oh-so-offensive women. And they are just as much to blame (if not more) for continuing to perpetuate this treatment of women. All in the name of money.
In a statement, Ikea expressed “regret” over the issue, although they give the typical corporate BS and don’t come right out and say anything will change:
We should have reacted and realized that excluding women from the Saudi Arabian version of the catalog is in conflict with the IKEA Group values. We are now reviewing our routines to safeguard a correct content presentation from a values point-of-view in the different versions of the IKEA Catalog worldwide.
This is not the first time that women have been conveniently deleted from Saudi publications. In other imported magazines, their faces and bodies have been scribbled over with black markers. Like, who employs people to sit around all day and color out images of women in these magazines? Saudi Arabia, apparently.
Tell us what you think: Is this an injustice or a simple compliance with another culture?