Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - Ikea apologies for airbrushing women from Saudi Arabia catalogue

Ikea has said it regrets deleting images of women from its catalogue in Saudi Arabia.

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 3 October

Ikea apologies for airbrushing women from Saudi Arabia catalogue


Ikea has said it regrets deleting images of women from its catalogue in Saudi Arabia.

The Swedish furniture manufacturer was subject to criticism on Monday after the country's free newspaper, Metro, compared the Swedish and Saudi versions of the catalogues which show the same photographs of products and interiors - but with all women erased from the Saudi edition.

One picture shows a family apparently getting ready for bed, with a young boy brushing his teeth. However, a woman standing next to him wearing pyjamas has been removed from the Saudi version. In another picture, a barefoot woman with earrings has been digitally altered to become a man wearing black socks.

A female designer from the company was also removed from the cover shot while her three male colleagues remain in the picture.

Sweden's Equality Minister Nyamko Sabuni said it was wrong to re-touch the images.

She told the Associated Press: "For Ikea to remove an important part of Sweden's image and an important part of its values in a country that more than any other needs to know about Ikea's principles and values, that's completely wrong,"

Saudi Arabia is often criticised for its treatment of women. Islamic Sharia law is strictly applied by the ruling Al Saud family who uphold a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism.

Women are forbidden to travel, work or study without the permission of male guardians and must cover up outside the home.

When they appear in Saudi advertising, it is mostly on Saudi-owned television channels that show women in long dresses with full-length sleeves and scarves covering their hair. Imported magazines are heavily censored to block out parts of a woman's body, including arms and legs.

Ikea, which operates three branches in Saudi Arabia, said in a statement that it was "deeply sorry" for removing images of women and the company was reviewing its procedures.

"We should have reacted and realised that excluding women from the Saudi Arabian version of the catalogue is in conflict with the Ikea Group values."



Questions for discussion


For primary:

  • Do you think that men and women should be treated differently? Why/why not?
  • Have you ever visited a country where the culture and traditions was different to your own?

For secondary:

  • Can you think of any other problems which are connected to airbrushing?
  • In your opinion, is this a case of sexism or a matter of cultural sensitivity?



Related resources


The Power of Advertising

  • An excellent PowerPoint-based lesson plan that introduces pupils to > concepts of advertising and the power it has on society.

Around the World in 80 Days - Saudi Arabia

  • A complete selection of resources for the study of Saudi Arabia.

The Impact of Human Rights

  • Compare how the press represents drug use with the deaths caused by drugs in this thought-provoking article from Wellcome Trust.

Religious Attitudes to Human Rights

  • A fantastic resource which asks pupils to apply religious teachings to human rights scenarios, and to decide what a particular religion's opinion would be.

Further news resources


First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

In the news this week


A Channel 4 programme about the effects of recreational drugs has been criticised for claiming to feature “ground-breaking research” on the subject.

Pupils are no better at aspects of basic maths today than they were in the 1970s, despite rising exam results, a major new study published this week by King’s College London has found.

Teachers in Kenya, East Africa, are returning to the classroom today following a three-week strike that forced school closures across the country.

Iran’s goverment has restricted access to Google’s email service and search engine, it has announced on state television.



In the news archive index