The Associated Press reports that women were banned from Ikea’s Saudi Arabia catalog because the local culture disapproves with the portrayal of women in advertisements. The Swedish Group issued a statement saying that the modifications clashed with their company’s values.
Ikea Saudi Arabia was forced to modify their furniture catalogue by removing all the women that were normally included in the pictures. The portrayal of women in the media in general, and in advertisements, in particular is condemned in Saudi Arabia; therefore, only masculine figures have been included in the illustration.
The modification was first noticed when a reporter at the Associated Press compared the two catalogues which are otherwise identical. The photo that was subject to analysis portrayed a man, a woman and a child while brushing their teeth in the bathroom. In the image that was selected from the Saudi Arabia catalogue the woman was removed leaving a blank space between the man and his apparent son.
As soon as the Swedish furniture maker was informed about the modification, Ikea issued a statement expressing their regret for the given situation. The company declared that the altered version of the catalog clashes with their values as Ikea has always been a strong supporter of equal human rights. The Swedish group told the press that they are against any form of discrimination and they regret they could not react to the exclusion of women from the Saudi Arabia catalogue.
Ikea reassured customers all over the world that similar situations will not take place again the future. The furniture manufacturer will take measures to safeguard their catalogues and to make sure the content will not offend the different points of view of other cultures.
Saudi Arabia has been harshly criticized for their behavior towards women, who are not allowed to travel or study alone if they are not accompanied by men. Despite this, there are voices saying that Western countries constantly modify pictures of women making them slimmer or younger in order to fit the cultural values of their society. As a result, Ikea should be more tolerant in relation to Saudi Arabia’s requests.