Wherever we go we expect the IKEA catalogue to look the same. Not so when we go to Saudi Arabia.
Women airbrushed from Ikea catalogue
The Ikea catalogue looks the same wherever in the world you go. If you don't go to Saudi Arabia, that is. There, all the images of women and most girls are airbrushed out of the catalogue, though everything else is the same. For instance, in a picture of a mother at a bathroom mirror alongside her family, the mother is nowhere to be seen in the Saudi Arabian Ikea catalogue.
Ewa Björling, Sweden’s Minister of Trade, isn’t too happy about this: “Women cannot be retouched away in reality. If Saudi Arabia does not allow women to appear [in public] or work, they lose about half their intellectual capital,” she told the Swedish newspaper Metro, while Ikea spokesperson, Ylva Magnusson (also a woman) told a German press agency that the catalogue was designed by an external franchise that operates Ikea stores in Saudi Arabia.
As you know, it's not that all household chores in Saudi Arabia are done by men - a fact more likely to have been accepted by Sweden's Minister of Trade. It's a bit more complicated and less appealing to a westerner than that. Women in Saudi Arabia live under strict Islamic law and are forbidden from behavior that is common in western cultures. The gulf kingdom is the only country in the world that prohibits women from driving. Women there are also not allowed to vote and must also have permission from a man to work, travel or open a bank account.
The Ikea catalogue looks the same everywhere in the world, except in Saudi Arabia where women have been airbrushed out, as on the photo above (image credit: Ikea).