IKEA prints 208 million catalogues in 43 countries every year. They are all the same, except in Saudi Arabia, where women have been Photoshopped out because their photos “show too much skin,” according to the Islamic Kingdom’s laws. And it’s not the only thing that gets altered.
A woman who is having dinner with her husband around a dinner table was completely removed, replaced by an empty table. Another one cleaning her teeth with her son, shown above, was eliminated. Even one of the IKEA employees presenting the catalogue — Clara Gausch, one of the four designers — was erased with Photoshop. The other three designers are all there. They are all male.
The censorship is not only about women: wine glass gets translated to “festive glass” because you can’t have alcohol in Saudi Arabia. Festive glasses are for Diet Coke only.
Not our fault, says IKEA
IKEA’s people argues that it is not their fault: the Saudi Arabia catalogue is published by a franchise. But they regret they haven’t acted before it was too late, said IKEA spokeswoman Sara Carlsson. “We should have reacted and acknowledge that eliminating women in Saudi Arabia version [of the catalogue] conflicts with IKEA’s values.”
But this it not the first time this has happened: another woman was deleted from a catalogue in the early ’90s because, even while she was dressed properly with pants and a long skirt, she was considered lazy. Her sin: she was lying down on a sofa, enjoying a book.
According to Anne-Marie Colliander Lind, one of the translators for that catalogue, only women performing chores like attending the stove or cleaning dishes were allowed. Anything else was considered a problem.
Swedish Commerce Minister Ewa Björling found the censorship sad, arguing that “you can’t push women away from reality” and that “this is a sad example of how far Saudi Arabia is from gender equality.” [Metro (in Swedish) — Thanks Karl!]