Saudi IKEA’s Misogynistic Madness

I noticed something so disturbing today that I just HAD to rant a little bit about it. I mean this is complete and utter madness. So Dumb. Disturbs me what kind of sickos and women haters are out there.

This is the source of my headache, an article in the Swedish Metro magazine this morning:!2mPseJ6LPTrK2/
So the new IKEA catalogs are out and can be viewed online at their site
All the countries have pretty much the same stuff on offer and the catalogs look the same. Except for of course Saudi-Arabia, the birth place of Islam.

(*Please note this post is labelled under SATIRE. Thanks)


What’s different in the Saudi IKEA catalog then? Can anyone take a wild guess?

They censored it. ALL THE IMAGES OF WOMEN have magically disappeared from the Saudi version. A misogynistic air-brusher has vandalized the entire catalog.

You might have seen how they censor stuff in Saudi-Arabia before, like blacking out half clad women from the swimming pool packages or placing white tape on celebrity décolletage, drawing imaginary black leggings and T-shirts on women in the women’s magazines or spray painting the bare skin parts black. Heck they even black out the word PORK from food items.

Blacked out PORK word on Steak sauce bottle found in KSA.

Now let me just make it clear that I can understand why some of the censoring is done in Saudi-Arabia. (if I really really try hard to block most of my brain activity while at the same time placing my head in a very narrow tunnel, that is).

But people, this is a furniture catalog, OK? Who the hell needs to censor a furniture catalog anyways? And if they want to cut some culturally sensitive things out, OK, but why the need to delete all women?

The censorship at the actual Riyadh IKEA store has always creeped me out. Check this out:

ikea ksa saudi

What on earth was going on in their minds when they decided to do that? It’s just the babies mother for God’s sake!

How about this? The woman is fully covered! Looks like someone has some serious issues with women.

As a woman I find this highly offensive and insulting. This could possibly also be the height of hypocrisy. I wonder how many of the men responsible for this stupidity have maids (as in unrelated females) living in their houses? I would guess 99%.

What is the point of removing all the women from the Saudi catalog? Women do exist. What are these misogynist men trying to accomplish by this, trying to imagine women don’t exist? Do they not watch the news or TV at all? Do they not go to malls or grocery stores? Images of women are everywhere in Saudi-Arabia! Heck there is even REAL uncovered women out there on the streets of the conservative capital Riyadh. Should they be blocked from public view too? Even the women’s magazines that are allowed in the Magic Kingdom are not censored to this extent. So why IKEA?

I wonder how IKEA as a Scandinavian company is even agreeing to this. Sweden is one of the most gender equal countries in the world. What a mockery this is to equality of women. This is oppression of women. What an absolute shame and disgrace that is going on with Saudi IKEA.

I feel insulted as a Scandinavian. As if the women are indecent or shameful and thus needed to be removed. These are normal everyday images of women, of mothers with children in their homes, not of women posing in sexy positions in bikinis or miniskirts.

What do these people think, that Saudi men can’t handle a few images of mostly fully clad women? Are Saudi men expected to be so sex deprived they would go crazy to see these tempting Swedish women? Do these perverted minds assume all men think like them and would take the magazine into the bathroom for some “private viewing”? How disgusting. Is someone out there really this sick? For the life of me I can’t understand what is wrong with this picture of a family brushing their teeth together:

And in the Saudi version the mother has disappeared. I find this very sad that someone thought she needed to be removed. What kind sick minds are these?

This is the scene from the normal catalog kitchen section, the screen shot taken from the UAE catalog. How are the UAE men able to handle the images of women btw?

You would think that women naturally appear in the kitchens right? Not in Saudi! They also removed the man though. But hey, by taking a closer look we can see the woman looks Asian. Wouldn’t this imply it’s a typical scene from an average Saudi home, with approximately 70-80% of households employing housemaids of Asian origin?
An unrelated, uncovered Asian woman working in the kitchen, mixing with the Saudi males of the family.
Why is it totally fine in the homes but not in the catalog?
Can anyone say double standards?
Maybe they removed the guy too, thinking that Saudi women might get ideas of hiring male maids! God forbid an unrelated male mixing with Saudi women (like the drivers). What would the world turn into.

Another image from the real world. A family cooking happily together, father, grandfather, mother, children all joyfully together. What is so wrong with this image that Saudi-Arabia can’t handle it?

The image says “never too many cooks“, are you sure about that IKEA?

First of all scenes like this just don’t exist in Saudi homes. Better to remove the grandpa (although he looks culturally acceptable with his muttawa-look) because he should not be anywhere near the kitchen. The father needs to be deleted so that Saudi women don’t get any ideas in their heads about cooking husbands, what if they started demanding the Saudi men start cooking?  Better to protect the Saudi men from this horrid fate.

The woman is dressed so indecently that she needs to be removed straight away.

The kids are helping to set up the table. What! Helping?? For God’s sake, where is the maid?! Totally unacceptable to make children to do housework! They should not have to help with any household chores because the that’s what the maids are for after all, according to what most people around here seem to think.

This is what the kitchen should look like according to Saudi standards:

Much better!
Except that the magic deleting wand forgot the wine bottle on the table. What a horrific mistake! Someone might some bad ideas from that! The nation might turn into alcoholics because they forgot to black it out and pretend it doesn’t exist.
How about this image. Honestly I can’t even tell which one is the woman, you have to look very close to even notice. She seems to be dressed just like the male counterparts. But because she’s a woman..DELETE.
How ridiculous can this get really? The entire catalog is full of examples like this. Why does the IKEA censor hate women so much they need to be completely deleted from the catalog?

Above all how could IKEA, which is a company based on family values which comes from a country once chosen as the best country for women to live in, accept this misogynistic madness?

Are women not welcome into the Saudi-Arabian IKEA stores?

Edit: IKEA has issued a statement saying they regret the decision:

“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.”


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Hello there, I'm Laura, the author of Blue Abaya, the first travel blog in Saudi Arabia established in 2010. I've been traveling around and exploring Saudi Arabia since 2008. Connect with me on social media with the links below!
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  • I'm FarsillaOctober 1, 2012 - 4:20 pm

    sexist much i guess


  • NoorOctober 1, 2012 - 4:24 pm

    This country just takes steps backs how sad.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahOctober 1, 2012 - 8:23 pm

      yes things like these are always depressing.ReplyCancel

  • LMOctober 1, 2012 - 4:40 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyCancel

  • LMOctober 1, 2012 - 4:49 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahOctober 1, 2012 - 8:26 pm

      Why did they also remove female children then? I don't think there is anything wrong with displaying women as mothers. Sweden respects mothers very highly..ReplyCancel

    • LMOctober 1, 2012 - 10:28 pm

      This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyCancel

  • MahaOctober 1, 2012 - 4:52 pm

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousOctober 1, 2012 - 5:10 pm

    I have noticed that even little girl's are blacked out sometimes. I have also seen young men snapping shots of mannequins in the malls. All of this seems so perverted to me.

    • LaylahOctober 1, 2012 - 8:28 pm

      Snapping shots of mannequins? Never saw that one before! That's what living in such an inhumane environment does to some people I guess. It's not normal for human nature to hide all women (images and real) from public. I find it sick.ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousOctober 2, 2012 - 12:24 am

      Wow..this is freaky..i understand the religious way of thinking in terms of blocking out half naked women from photos ie: bikini or lingerie but as anon said it is a little perverted when they are deleting little girls from the photos as well as well-dresses women. The fact that they keep male figures shows its not religiously connected to the idea of "photos of humans are haram" butReplyCancel

    • LaylahOctober 2, 2012 - 10:14 am

      Julia men can turn their TV on in Saudi and it’s full of the same soft core porn. I agree extreme measures and segregation will only make matters worse, there needs to be a middle way.ReplyCancel

  • YunnanOctober 1, 2012 - 5:39 pm

    This is really disturbing, but it reflects just as badly on the company, who, at some level, were either complicit in, or ignorant to, this airbrushing. Perhaps some of the photos just don't represent what Saudi households would look like, and so I could understand that 'whole family cooking in the kitchen' might just be a bit of a culture shock, but then just have NO people appearingReplyCancel

    • LMOctober 1, 2012 - 6:57 pm

      This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahOctober 1, 2012 - 8:31 pm

      I noticed there were women of many races and skin colors in the original catalog and all have been removed so I don't think that's an extra issue.
      Ikea knew this was going on but accepted it and are now apologetic saying it was a mistake which is hard to believe.ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousOctober 2, 2012 - 3:44 am

      I agree with yunnan its also the light skin factor (damn those saudi men must have binoculars for eyes they probably don't even blink in case they miss something) LOL..arabs are obsessed with attainting light skin and that word doesn't even touch on the topic.ReplyCancel

    • LMOctober 2, 2012 - 10:36 am

      This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyCancel

  • HopeOctober 1, 2012 - 6:26 pm

    OMG I am so disgusted!! I would not have been so surprised if this was a saudi-store, however, given that its a Scandanivian one, I am in shock!!! that only gives me NO HOPE that the new FINNISH school they're building wouldn't be influenced by such ignorance. The sad thing is this is not Arab culture nor ISLAM. They really need to wake up and LEARN how to CO-EXIST with their equalReplyCancel

    • LMOctober 1, 2012 - 10:32 pm

      This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyCancel

    • Umm GamarOctober 2, 2012 - 3:07 am

      Sick is all I can say. I beg to differ about the last part of your comment though Laylah, since my western convert friends know what is Islam. However, it is a great tool for people who hates Islam and hates the idea of God to make use of this information against Islam, regardless of the many VALID information out there that states it isn't Islam at all! Cannot wait for those kind of commentsReplyCancel

  • YaelianOctober 1, 2012 - 6:47 pm

    Minun on vaikeaa kuvitella IKEAn luettelo tuolla tavoin retusoituna…Mitäköhän IKEAn oma väki tuosta ajattelee….ReplyCancel

    • LaylahOctober 1, 2012 - 8:34 pm

      Yaelian-kuulemma ovat pahoillaan etta 'paasi lipsahtamaan" ya right!ReplyCancel

  • sessiOctober 1, 2012 - 6:52 pm

    Unbelievable. No words. Really.

  • Muslima HelenOctober 1, 2012 - 11:37 pm

    Well, however I don't think women should be deleted out of such pictures or have their face blacked out, it's known that it's a sin in islam to look at an uncovered woman. But it's very contradictional with the unislamic things happening there though.

    In Iran, the Dutch newspaper (that was ordered by a Dutch guy, living in Iran), has been totally censured. EverythingReplyCancel

  • Omani Princess (not Omani...yet)October 2, 2012 - 3:44 am

    That is really too much. I am totally ok with them airbrushing a naked butt or overthetop cleavage on something giant like a poster (which seems only to happen here in Oman in magazine covers that are displayed on the front of shelves not those in the back and top of the rack) but anything else is really demeaning to me as a woman. If they argued they believe showing images of anyhting livingReplyCancel

  • Bourne69October 2, 2012 - 6:29 am

    Interesting Article layla .. for me i grown up seeing all the censorship in supermarkets , pharmacies , advertisement etc. Saudi mentality belongs to the stone ageReplyCancel

  • AnonymousOctober 2, 2012 - 8:06 am

    well, when your daughter grows up (16-older), you can let all the men stare at her all you want…and make sure she has no choice to cover.

    now honestly, can you give me a true answer to that without going around the bush on the subject.

    you are still new in the country, and will appreciate it all after many years. gReplyCancel

    • HopeOctober 2, 2012 - 5:53 pm

      Anonymous, your question is beyond ignorant.. its very disturbing actually! they always say you can judge a person’s intellect from the kind of questions they ask..ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousOctober 2, 2012 - 8:16 am

    and if this was displayed in the ikea here in the states, everyone would wonder if it were a new trend or something. maybe say ”wonder what’s going on with the picture and why like that” and turn their head and keep on going. nobody would get mad or upset or care- they dont want to buy the family. you need to spend more time out of saudi, if it upsets you so much.gReplyCancel

  • ♥hind♥October 2, 2012 - 8:59 am

    assalam alaikum
    I somehow think that your post will offend someone.
    Especially brainwashed western converts and MAYBE saudi woman.
    Who cares whats brainwashed western converts think anyways.. Ikea Saudi Arabia?
    NO I dont think so.
    In a country where woman are harassed for not covering properly or even forced to cover more than they want – censoring pictures like that is not uncommon right?
    MAybe its even to not offend Saudi woman instead of tempting saudi man.
    How would you feel if your supossed to cover.. even tho you dont want to and then you go shopping and there are plenty of uncovered woman on the display…
    Just my thoughts…


    • LMOctober 2, 2012 - 10:49 am

      This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyCancel

    • HopeOctober 2, 2012 - 11:45 am

      Another issue is that Saudi-Women think its unfair that the uncovered women are flaunting their beauty when they have to cover in public…. … ….. Ive heard that from alot of saudi ladies.. One of my Saudi neighbors in the US told me to never take my husband with me to Kingdom Mall because there are so many pretty uncovered women there….. They’re intimidated by the uncovered women or feel insecure because their men will look and compare ….. basically they don’t trust their men…
      Tempted ? why are men getting tempted by the concept of a woman??? Its because the society is portraying women as sex-objects.. they’re not looking at them as career ladies, mothers, teachers, docs, … basically an essential part of society!!!!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousOctober 2, 2012 - 1:57 pm

    I could not help but laugh while reading this article. You have got a great sense of humour. Your expressions are really funny. I know this is a serious topic, but I can’t help but point out the obvious. Your sarcasms were a beauty. I think you should branch out a page for reviews and observations. We can laugh while we think.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahOctober 2, 2012 - 7:54 pm

      Thank you, I’m glad someone recognizes appreciates sarcasm like I do :) this post is 90% sarcastic and 10% serious.ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousOctober 3, 2012 - 3:17 am

      Salam Laylah i think thats where ppl get confused and offended they don’t understand the sarcastic point.they think it to the be the other way around 90% serious and 10% sarcastic…maybe they have not been reading ure blog long enough.

  • AnonymousOctober 3, 2012 - 6:58 am

    mostly sarcasm? ok, sounds fair. cute. gReplyCancel

  • Om Lujain©October 3, 2012 - 8:57 am

    I finally got the chance to read this… and all though I am not shocked at all about any of it.., Your spin on it had me on the ground laughing! FREAKEN HILARIOUS!!!!!!!! HAHAHAHHAHA!!ReplyCancel

    • Om Lujain©October 3, 2012 - 12:46 pm

      lol.. didn’t realize my first comment went through.. thus the double take :DReplyCancel

    • LaylahOctober 3, 2012 - 8:48 pm

      Thanks Om Lujain I’m glad you had a good laugh :)ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousOctober 3, 2012 - 1:12 pm

    hey I alway ready your blog and I wanted to send you the link above. CNN in the states has a story about IKEA dropping images of women.

    Just thought you would enjoy the story. The link should take you straight to it.

    Teresa in AmericaReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 3, 2012 - 8:56 pm

    Hi Teresa thanks for the link!ReplyCancel

  • Abdullah The ArabianOctober 3, 2012 - 11:20 pm

    this is really silly. What is the problem if ikea erase the pics of women in their catalogue? It is not against women. it is just respect of the culture of the land. arabian dont think it is apropriate to use women in catalogues. and they are free to do what they think is right. people you should get a life!ReplyCancel

  • FayezOctober 4, 2012 - 9:23 am

    I once saw a cooking show here in Saudi Arabia where the guy was showing how to cook pork. But every time he said the word pork, they muted his voice.

    So basically, you can see pork, learn how to cook it, and watch people enjoy eating it, but god forbid if you ever hear them mention it!ReplyCancel

  • dragonladyOctober 4, 2012 - 10:58 am

    It also appeared on the 6pm news broadcast (local time Jeddah) of BBC Worldwide News on Monday or Tuesday night (can’t remember which) – so its getting a bit of publicity of the type that IKEA don’t want!ReplyCancel

  • DianneOctober 4, 2012 - 11:00 am

    It also appeared on the 6pm (local Jeddah time) broadcast of BBC Worldwide News on either Monday or Tuesday (can’t remember which). Publicity of the sort that IKEA won’t really be wanting! Loved your article btw!!!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousOctober 4, 2012 - 2:54 pm

    Well Laylah, let’s see how much sales will IKEA record :) Actually it is all about selling the product, if they can sell it without pictures why they are going to bother themselves for letting the photos appear (which they have deleted) and getting loggerheads with the govt.

    – AReplyCancel

  • AnonymousOctober 4, 2012 - 3:03 pm

    It seems to be the hypocrisy. I saw read several other blogs where some women are supporting it and some are against it. The most disturbing trend is that they accept unrelated women living with their men and boys and themselves going out with unrelated men (read driver here). I think if it is their culture they should be honest from all the aspects, I respect their culture but honesty should also be there.


  • SandyOctober 4, 2012 - 8:25 pm

    It is against women. And aspects of Saudi Culture are very against women and should not be respected.ReplyCancel

    • LMOctober 5, 2012 - 3:13 am

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  • AnonymousOctober 5, 2012 - 7:02 am

    I was just thinking about the topic you wrote about. Now they even cover little girls photos. I mean how sick can people get? what surprises me the most is the silence of the Saudi women. It’s amazing how passive they are!!! I just hope that the new generations will be better educated and bring the change needed.ReplyCancel

    • LMOctober 5, 2012 - 2:38 pm

      This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousOctober 5, 2012 - 12:36 pm

    Put the catalogue down and take a deep breath! I understand how weird Saudi can be, and I myself think it’s very odd how they will print a family pictures and blur out the mom. BUT this is Saudi, it’s nothing like UAE. This is a country where hijab is mandatory, at least an abaya to cover the body. It would be more weird imo, to have that rule and then print pictures of women without hijab. I don’t think myself think this is misogynistic, but rather an attempt to keep within the rules of the country and Islam. To keep strictly to religious rules they wouldn’t print images of people at all, I guess this an uncomfortable compromise.
    You must have more much more experience of Saudi life than I have – I have only been here a year or so, but I have heard from my students some pretty sweet stories of their dads being helpful and domestic. I guess it does happen although the reverse seems to be the norm here.
    And I totally agree with you on the maid issue!

  • AnonymousOctober 5, 2012 - 12:51 pm

    Oh, and on the ‘light skin’ issue – one thing I have always loved about the IKEA catalogue is the blend of people in it – interracial families, adopted kids, etc.

  • StephanieOctober 6, 2012 - 2:47 pm

    When Osama bin Laden was killed, a Hasidic Jewish newspaper in New York airbrushed Hilary Clinton out of a photograph related to the capture and killing. Because nothing is more sexually arousing to males than watching a woman kill a terrorist. (Sarcasm).

    I discovered my dad’s porn collection hidden in the basement when I was about 8 years old. A lot of hardcore stuff along with some Playboy and Maxim. No IKEA, Good Housekeeping or Martha Stuart Living, however. If men seriously were using images of women in these catalogues to masturbate, I guess now they will just have to use their imaginations and pretend that the photos of sinks, refrigerators and shelves are women.

    Also, as far as those imaages of women’s skin airbrushed in black – to me they just look like black women wearing dresses now. So, it’s okay for black women to show skin, but not white or lighter skinned women – the sociologist in me could write a book about that. Love your blog, Layla.ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousOctober 7, 2012 - 2:14 am

      TMI about ure dad…thats just disturbing

    • StephanieOctober 10, 2012 - 1:16 pm

      men looking at porn is disturbing? i think it’s quite typicalReplyCancel

    • AnonymousOctober 22, 2012 - 1:31 pm

      You don´t think discovering your DAD`S HARDCORE-PORN is disturbing??!! I think you must be SOMEWHAT brainwashed from watching too much of todays media (which is also mostly porn) for that to feel ok for you! Please watch less freaky Tv-shows. Any helathy human would feel sick after that. Even guys consuming porn themselves would normally not want to find their dad´d freakin porn-collection.. That is just TOO MUCH. And EVEN MORE strange if you where only a kid!ReplyCancel

  • Jerry Mc KennaOctober 6, 2012 - 3:57 pm

    I can imagine the Saudi religious police looking at this catalog and seeing how this has raised the bar for them. Instead of ugly black marker censorship, the entire product was artfully redone. If this idea were to be adopted by the Saudis it might had thousands of jobs to the economy. Imagine a Saudi art department creating custom labels for sauces or custom cd inserts with carefully covered people on the covers. There are so many avenues for creativity. The black marker will die a quick death.


  • Abid RahmanOctober 13, 2012 - 10:20 am

    Being an Islamic country they don’t like to portray females as such for any ads. Most importantly the advertisement is about furniture and that doesn’t make a difference if there’s females in it or not, be it a child or whatsoever!

  • Onelovely MuslimahOctober 24, 2012 - 7:32 pm

    assalamualaikum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatu!
    funny post lol your rant was quite commical!

    i prefer no people in the catalogs ! it allows the products to be solely show cased…after all they are supposed to be selling household furniture and not advertising models and what not! Ikea should ban models universally in their catalogues!! Because not all families are typically looking like them and all happy go-lucky! totally unrealistic!!!!!


  • AnonymousOctober 26, 2012 - 2:39 am

    Because females are present, doesn’t mean they are being “paraded around” as one writer claims. I take offense to this. Women are an equal presence. Why should their presence be construed as any more sexual than the male presence in these catalogues.

    We are sisters, mothers, aunts, daughters… not sheep to hidden in our homes. I would sign my name, but I can’t figure it out…ReplyCancel

    • LMOctober 29, 2012 - 12:39 am

      This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyCancel

    • LMOctober 29, 2012 - 12:43 am

      This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyCancel

    • LMOctober 29, 2012 - 1:05 am

      This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 22, 2012 - 8:23 am

    Considering that image making is completely forbidden in Islam, I do wonder why they have kept images of any human beings at all. Muslims – they just confuse me!ReplyCancel

    • Mayssa BekriDecember 1, 2012 - 12:03 pm

      There’s nothing confusing about Islam dear. What really bothers me how non Muslims get such a false ugly image of Islam because of some stupid Saudi traditions. If you get to know real Islam you”ll be very impressed. There is no religion on a earth that have protected and cherished women as Islam did. The Muslim women got their rights way before the UN or what’s so ever. I really don’t understand saudis’ obsession about women really. Women are the base of society in Islam and they are definitely not be hidden and stuck at home! So proud and happy to be a Muslim.ReplyCancel

  • SarilNovember 21, 2013 - 10:30 pm

    I saw Saudi schoolbooks from a primary school – even there are only boys and men pictures. Perhabs females really don’t exist?ReplyCancel

  • Dr RiqMarch 31, 2014 - 8:22 am

    My Friend, Its weird but then why complain about IKEA’s decision when KSA to a large extent has decided to delete women from almost all socio-political spheres. The like any good capitalistic multinational doing in ‘Rome as the Roman’s would do’… They are there to sell crappy furniture not change society…ReplyCancel

  • […] more pics from the Saudi IKEA experience go here: IKEA KSA Saudi VIP’s Excuse me I’m a VIP need service […]ReplyCancel

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