IKEA is facing criticism in the wake of the release of their latest Saudi Arabian catalogue, in which the company airbrushed women out of its photos. Many public officials in Sweden, where IKEA was founded 70 years ago, condemned the removal of the women and argued for more egalitarian attitudes concerning gender.
While IKEA does not carry sole responsibility for upholding or shifting the values of a nation, the process by which rights advancements occur is piecemeal. A well-publicized incident like this is detrimental to the progressive movement toward women’s equality. By making concessions to the tendencies of Saudi culture to oppress or ignore women, IKEA is perpetuating the problem.
IKEA has airbrushed women out of its Saudi Arabian catalogues since the 1980s. But now it is 2012: a time when women and men have equal opportunity throughout many regions of the world. While IKEA should respect the religious values of the nations in which it operates, there is a fine line between politeness to a country and complete disrespect to an entire gender.
Regardless of the company’s claims, this is more than a retouch. It is a visceral elimination of the female population in a region that is already credited with stifling women’s rights and stunting gender equality. Pretending that women do not exist merely exacerbates a stigma prevalent throughout the region. In the exclusion, IKEA sheds light on a culture where women lack a voice in many aspects of daily life.
After 30 years, we are glad to see this issue finally surfacing into the public spotlight. IKEA should not alter reality for profit in Saudi Arabia. Other companies will look to IKEA’s model when deciding how to approach this issue. IKEA has an opportunity to correct its mistake and promote a message of gender equality in a region where it has previously been lost between the couch cushions.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 9 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Weekend Roam: Little Germany
- WSN Editorial Board reflects on spring semester events
- Strawberry Festival promises delicious, intergalactic fun
- Clive Davis Institute collaborates with DJ Swivel
- Best places to dine on dumplings
- 'Heroes' is not super enough for Xbox Live film program launch
- NYU SLAM sees victory through 'badidas' campaign
- Victoria Ettore elected student council president
- Hester Street Fair hosts diverse vendors, delicious food