IKEA and the Business of Airbrushing Women
The Swedish furniture purveyor omits women from its Saudi catalog
IKEA. Nothing may better sum up the domestic horrors unearthed by trips to the Swedish furniture store than this clip from 30 Rock below:
(For those keeping score, the name of the actor who plays the embattled old man is Bernie Lippman.)
Beyond its place as a cultural reference point in America, IKEA has a fascinating history. According to a book released last year, IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad was a Nazi sympathizer not only as a young lad during World War II, but well into the years after the war.
The latest news about IKEA has to do with its decision to airbrush women out of its Saudi catalog.
Images of women were airbrushed from copies of the Swedish-based retailer’s annual catalog shipped to the religiously conservative Islamic kingdom. For example, one photo in the publication showed a mother, father and two children in a bathroom. In the Saudi version, the image of the woman was removed.
The controversy, which was first reported in the Swedish media, comes at a time when women are battling religious conservatives to gain equal footing in Saudi Arabia. IKEA issued an apology for its actions on Monday.
Eman Al Nafjan, who blogs and tweets as Saudiwoman, shrugged about the controversy:
“We’re beyond that right now in Saudi Arabia,” she told CNN. “With Internet and satellite TV, there’s really no such thing anymore as blacking out women or airbrushing out women. I would be upset if something like Google was doing it, but for IKEA to do it, that’s just marketing — it’s not such a big deal.