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News & Insight

IKEA In Hot Water for Photoshopping Women Out of its Catalog in Saudi Arabia

By fotosiamo on October 1st 2012

Ikea Saudi Arabia

IKEA is in trouble when the Swedish newspaper Metro wrote a story comparing the Swedish version of the IKEA catalog versus the Saudi Arabia version.

In the Saudi Arabian catalog, women were completely Photoshopped out of the catalog. Moreover, one of the female designers’ name was deleted from credits in the catalog. The newspaper questioned IKEA’s commitment to gender equality.

Here are some more examples:

According to Associated Press, the images and portrayal of women in Saudi Arabia are routinely censored, from the requirement to wear long dresses when on TV to blacking out imported magazine’s advertisements that display women’s arms, legs, and chest.

Even Starbucks was not immune to this censorship. When it opened up its chain in Saudi Arabia, it had to remove “the alluring, long-haired woman from its logo, keeping only her crown” (AP).

What do you think about the issue of Photoshop and ethics? Do you think IKEA should have held to its values or is it understandable when catering to a particular country’s societal values?

You can read more from The Associated Press. Thanks to Imaging Resource for the find.


Joe is a rising fashion and commercial photographer based in Los Angeles, CA. He blends creativity and edge with a strong style of lighting and emotion in his photographs. Be sure to check out his work at and connect with him on Google Plus and on Facebook

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Anonymous

    I’m not sure IKEA is in “Hot Water ” with anyone.  Sounds like another attention getting headline and someone trying to stir up responses.  Meh

    That’s how Saudi Arabia rolls.  Why do we worship multi-culturalism and then act appalled when we find out other groups live differently than we do.  

    It’s all fun and games until someone crops a woman.  

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    • Joe Gunawan

      IKEA is in “hot water” in regards to its public image at least in the Western nations. IKEA, is after all, a global company and has a global image, which is why this cultural clash is going to stir up responses. If it was only a superficial issue, news outlets like Associated Press and others would not have picked up on it. It is, at the root of it all, a clash of fundamental ideology.

      I’m not judging whether what they did was right or wrong, especially since they do have to cater to each country’s society, but only acknowledging it as it is.

      – Joe 

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  2. Tonystarks

    about the issue of Photoshop and ethics??? there is a thing called “community law” or “country law” or “country legal system” this  IKEA stuff ain’t for debating issue. every nation has its own rules. when Saudi Arabian has a restriction on women appearance in public or society based on what the rules and ethics on their community, we can’t just force this matter as of “freedom of speech” or freedom of expression”. another example, those system applied as the rules of “marijuana” are legal for some states in the US.  It’s like when you are visiting your neighbourhood and you are bringing your dining table and chairs as well with the cuttleries to respond their dinner invitation. nuff said.

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    • Anonymous

      Agreed, not sure they really have a choice in that matter. You need to market to your target audience.

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    • r2roh

      You’re always free to choose not to do business with those whose ethics are not compatible with yours. There’s got to be a certain point beyond which you’re not comfortable, otherwise it’s ok to sell guns to African warlords that send children to kill other children or land mines to  be used in the fields where poor peasants have to work to feed their children,,, wait! everybody does that, so everything must be OK if one makes some money. My bad, never mind.

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    • Jean-Francois

      Totally agreed. But remember your science, ethics dissolves in oil (or is it money?)

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