Swedish furniture giants Ikea decided that the people of Saudi Arabia couldn’t handle their photos of not-so-scantily clad women and so airbrushed them out of their latest catalog.
It’s one of the most popular catalogs in the world, reproduced in dozens of countries in dozens of different languages, but there’s a difference in the Saudi Arabian edition. The women pictured doing such saucy things as helping their children brush their teeth, sitting down on the couch, and in some pictures, standing around, have been removed.
Sweden’s trade minister, Ewa Bjorling (we’re big fans of her here), was quoted in the Metro newspaper: “It’s impossible to retouch women out of reality. These images are yet another regrettable example that shows we have a long road ahead when it comes to gender equality in Saudi Arabia.”
Saudi Arabia has some of the most stringent segregation laws in the world, with men and women rarely allowed to socialize in public. Not to mention women needing male accompaniment before traveling or receiving medical care.
Ikea’s response was to do some serious weaseling out: “We should have reacted and realized that excluding women from the Saudi Arabian version of the catalogue is in conflict with the IKEA Group values.”