IKEA Apologizes for Removing Women from Saudi Catalog

by Amy Bucknam


IKEA has been under fire this past week after it was revealed that they had airbrushed all the women out of the images in their annual catalog for IKEA Saudi Arabia.

They have since apologized and expressed their “regret” for the situation, telling the Associated Press, “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.”

The company’s home country of Sweden was the first to criticize this move, followed by the U.S. newspaper Metro comparing the Swedish version of the catalog with the IKEA Saudi Arabia version last week.   Any woman photographed in the catalog has been photoshopped out of the Saudi version.  Otherwise, the images are exactly the same.

Sweden’s gender equality minister, Nyamko Sabuni, noted that although IKEA is a private company that makes its own decisions, it projects its image of Sweden and Swedish principles internationally. “For IKEA to remove an important part of Sweden’s image and an important part of its values in a country that more than any other needs to know about about IKEA’s principles and values – that’s completely wrong,” Sabuni stated.



One of the more obvious examples is a photo of a family getting ready for the day together in the bathroom.  The Saudi version is missing the pajama-clad woman who is pictured in the Swedish version brushing her teeth next to a young boy.  All other members of the model nuclear family remained in the Saudi version; presumably the father caring for a baby and the young son.

IKEA also deleted an image of a female designer who had assisted in designing one of the lines of furniture.

“It’s impossible to retouch women out of reality,” Swedish Minister of Trade Ewa Björling told Metro newspaper. “These images are yet another regrettable example that shows we have a long road ahead when it comes to gender equality in Saudi Arabia.”



Images: IKEA

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