Ikea’s Woman-Free Saudi Edition, Part 2

by Jillian Kay Melchior

Back in October, many media sources called out Ikea for airbrushing women out of its Saudi Arabian furniture catalogue. Responses ranged from the humorous to the scathing. Ikea eventually issued a public apology, stating that “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.”

Or not.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that Ikea’s female-free photos have remained on the Saudi-edition website. A few comparative samples:

The Journal reports:

Reinstating the missing women would be a simple enough technical fix in this digital age, but [Inter IKEA Systems spokeswoman Ulrika] Englesson Sandman said that Al Sulaiman, the franchisee operating IKEA in Saudi Arabia, has decided to let the photos with the missing women remain online with the argument that the damage is already done.

It looks like Ikea missed the whole point. The controversy was never about Ikea’s branding choices and corporate damage; it was about how the photos were a concession to — and reinforcement of — the Saudis’ misogynistic culture. The damage persists.

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