Today's issue of the Swedish daily Metro shows images from Swedish and Saudi Arabian IKEA catalogs for next year in which women have been deleted from identical photos. (Photo: Henrik Montgomery, AP, via USA Today)Pity the poor Saudis. The homeland of the prophet Mohammad is populated by (mostly Wahhabist) Muslims who — for some reason that my all-too-rational-mind will never comprehend — can’t handle the fact that women exist. In order to avoid knowing they’re around, they force them to shroud themselves in burqas, and limit their ability to get around (such as preventing them from driving, leaving home without a male, etc.). The desire never to see a woman … ever … leads to all sorts of ridiculous outcomes. One of these, as the Wall Street Journal reports, is the intentional removal of women from photos used in the IKEA catalog there (WebCite cached article):

Representatives for Swedish furniture giant IKEA on Monday said the company regrets removing women from some of the photos in catalogs shipped to Saudi Arabia. The move sparked criticism from government officials in Sweden and raised questions about whether some IKEA franchises can violate values that most company stores abide by. …

A comparison of the Saudi catalog to a standard version of the catalog showed that several women photographed in the standard version are missing from pages of the Saudi version. Otherwise, the photos throughout the catalog appear to be virtually identical.

The discrepancy was first reported by Metro, a free newspaper in Stockholm. A spokeswoman for the IKEA Group—which handles the catalog for the furniture company—said the move is in conflict with company values and IKEA is reviewing its procedures as a result.

Here’s a sample of the difference between the original artwork and its Saudi rendition:

A woman photographed in the standard version of the IKEA catalog, left, is missing from pages of the Saudi version, right / IKEA, via the Wall Street Journal.

A woman photographed in the standard version of the IKEA catalog, left, is missing from pages of the Saudi version, right / IKEA, via the Wall Street Journal.

IKEA’s corporate response was — as one might expect — to express some regrets:

“As a producer of the catalog, we regret the current situation,” Ylva Magnusson, spokeswoman for IKEA Group, which runs 298 of 337 IKEA stores world-wide, said. “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.”

This response clearly implies they were taken by surprise. And perhaps they were. But while IKEA Group has stated that IKEA stores in Saudi Arabia are run by a franchise, not directly by them, they did produce the catalog for the franchisee … so they really ought not be acting as though they’re caught up in something that’s out of their control. They had control of it … full control. They produced the catalog. They could have refused to cave into rigid Saudi misogyny … but they chose not to.

I can’t help but be reminded that the very same thing having happened in conservative Jewish newspapers from time to time. The idea that God doesn’t want women ever to be seen is not, therefore, a particular problem for Saudis, for Wahhabism, or even Islam. Other religions also seem to have a beef with the fact that women exist. I really don’t get why … I guess it must go over the head of this cynical, godless agnostic heathen. Even so, forcing some one-half of one’s own society to neither be seen nor heard, sure sounds like a fucking ridiculous idea to me. And the fact that someone at IKEA, in a very modern and civilized country like Sweden, would want to go along with this religionistic absurdity, is nearly as incomprehensible and ridiculous.

Photo credit, top: Henrik Montgomery / AP, via USA Today; middle: IKEA, via the Wall Street Journal.

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