IKEA Caught Photoshopping Women Out of Its Saudi Arabian Catalog

IKEA found itself in some hot water today after it came to light that a number of women seen in its catalog photographs had been Photoshopped out of the frame for the Saudi Arabian edition. Swedish newspaper Metro broke the story today with a scathing piece titled, “Women Cannot be Retouched Away,” writing that IKEA’s new catalog reflects the country’s oppression of women by editing out every single human with two X chromosomes.

Here’s another side-by-side comparison showing another of the retouched images:

Some of the photos weren’t ‘shopped, but were simply replaced with images entirely devoid of people:

As newspapers and websites around the world began picking up on the story, IKEA released a statement apologizing for its actions:

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.

We are now reviewing our routines to safeguard a correct content presentation from a values point-of-view in the different versions of the IKEA Catalog worldwide.

No word yet on whether IKEA plans to reissue the latest Saudi Arabian catalog with “fixed” photos.

(via Gawker via Imaging Resource)

P.S. Microsoft found itself in a similarly sticky situation back in 2009 after replacing the head of a black man with a white one for its Polish website.

  • Johan

    Not even same photo the first one. It’s 2 different photos and the man and the children have been Photoshoped in after that, Look at the towel and in the mirror on the first photo and compare them closely, it’s not the woman who have been deleted…

  • Johan

    It’s not true. If you look closely you will notice in the first photo that photo A and photo B is not the same, look at how the towel folds as its hangs also the shower curtain. It’s not the woman who have been deleted from the photo.. It’s the boys and the ‘dad’ that have been added to a new photo.

  • pete n pete

    So they’re using targeted marketing? So what? Everyone does that.

  • Joel Hempenius

    the reasons IKEA did this was because in Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to work, or seen with hair. also its not the IKEA Group’s decision, IKEA is a Franchise so IKEA Saudi Arabia decides these things.

  • sierrarobba

    IKEA manipualating pix since the first catalog.And we know some of the photos are not a real photo even film days.

  • Matthieu Pinsonneault

    According to PetaPixel comment section, there is a lot of sexist people outside Saudi Arabian too.

  • Koby Harati

    The interesting thing is to understand how IKEA build their catalog – from comparing the two photos in the first example you can see that the shower curtain and the towel are different – although they don’t even touch the woman. another thing – the stool that the boy is standing on has moved towards the wall, and finally – the red cabinet was perfectly pasted in, including the reflection of the towel. my conclusion is that IKEA photograph each subject separately and combine them later, in that case it’s no problem to photoshop people out.

  • Koby Harati

    notice that the stool has moved, and that the shower curtain and the towel also changed although they do’t even touch the woman, add to that the perfect reflection on the cabinet – I come to conclusion that IKEA photograph the different subjects separately and combine them together later.

  • Guest

    Says more about Saudi society than Ikea. I mean, Ikea probably knew most conservative folks would be outraged and boycott their store for showing a lady doing anything other than wearing a full burka and making herself invisible.

    So do they risk offending a society at the cost of inherently supporting it?

  • fuzzywuzzy

    I’m gonna go with … so what?

    From what I understand, IKEA spends a lot of time and effort researching the customs and cultural nuances of any location in which they plan to build their stores to ensure that they don’t sell anything or advertise in a way that would be offensive to an entire culture en masse.

    Considering how cultures like that in Saudi Arabia seem to go ape-shit any time a female shows an eyelid, leaving the women in the photos would have probably invoked a terrorist bombing of the nearest IKEA store. Now *that* would be a PR disaster. This seems like some feminist trying to make an issue where there is none.

    That’s not to say that they way these cultures treat women isn’t abhorrent, but targeting IKEA isn’t really the way to about it, or will it solve anything.

  • Liza

    In Saudi they usually just go through and mark all the women out with a black marker anyway.

  • 9inchnail

    Ikea is also using 3D rendered images instead of real photos of furniture. So what?

    But sure, those bad bad Saudis. As if you’d ever see a gay couple in an Ikea catalog in America. That’s just hypocritical.

  • bkf11

    So the dilemma is: Do you stay true to the company’s international values but possibly lose business in that country or do you sell out the values and stay in business? Neither totally appeals to me – I think that they should at least push the boundaries a bit. Ethics are important in a company.

  • Phase19

    I do not think that is true, it may be a franchise, but they would have the same concepts as the group

  • Phase19

    They are not ‘photos’ they are CGI.

  • Khalil Hwy

    I was shocked reading your non-logic western media comment. The actual fact is, women in Saudi Arabia are allowed to work and they are working in Ikea as cashiers, designer, administrators and similar jobs, but they are not working according to the regulation in such isolated departments, what ever it is, that may cause them any kind of abuse or dangers. and regarding the Hair, it’s religious in Islam that women must cover their body “including” head hair, but what if she didn’t Saudi Arabia? actually nothing will happen, it not acceptable socially in most of the families but if it founded it’s a personal issue and only who did it have deal with it. please get insure before judging cultures.

    Many thanks,
    Khalil Hawari,
    Jeddah, Saudi Arabia