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IKEA airbrushes out women from its Saudi catalog

Oct 1, 2012

USA Today

Doug Stanglin

11:05AM EST October 1. 2012 - The Swedish home furnishings store IKEA has airbrushed women from photos in the Saudi version of next year's furniture catalog, the Swedish newspaper Metro reports today.

Metro compares the deletions to Soviet censors who used to airbrush out "state enemies."

In Saudi Arabia, where women must be covered in public and are not allowed to drive, it is not forbidden to depict women in advertising, but strict guidelines are followed, particularly regarding the depiction of very much skin.

In one page of IKEA's standard catalog, a mother is shown brushing her teeth in the bathroom beside a young son. Behind them, in a typically warm IKEA scene, a husband is drying a second child with a towel.

In the Saudi catalog with the identical photo, the mother's image has been deleted.

On another page, women having dinner with a man in the Swedish catalog vanish in the Saudi version, with their images replaced by an empty table.

Metro notes that even a company's female designer is deleted on a page with three male colleagues.

IKEA released a statement expressing regret, saying, "We should have reacted and realized that excluding women from the Saudi Arabian version of the catalog is in conflict with the IKEA Group values," the Associated Press reports.