What's missing from this image in an IKEA catalog for Saudi Arabia?
The woman who was in the version sent elsewhere:
"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."
IKEA is a great store and while they are right to be castigated for contravening their stated values, the real culprits here are, I think, is our good friends the Sauds. The human rights record of the kingdom is terrible at best.
Years ago in a terrific interview with Reason, Swedish libertarian Johan Norberg talked about how one effect of cultural and economic globalization is that it changes how repressed populations see themselves. Take a look:
Globalization has also helped extend rights to women that had long been confined to men. These include being able to go into business, get an education, inherit money, and so on. One reason for this is simple economics. In a globalized, competitive economy, women are a potential resource. They are able to have new ideas, to produce, and to work. If you discriminate against women -- or anyone else -- you lose opportunities as a society or as an employer. Take the discussion that's going on now in Saudi Arabia about whether women should be allowed to drive, which they can't legally do now. While it's unlikely the situation there will change anytime soon, it's progress just to have the discussion. People are saying it's extremely costly to hire drivers, often from other countries, to drive women around. You can see how basic economics, basic capitalism, creates the incentive to give women more rights.
A second reason is that all the goods, ideas, and people that cross borders under globalization allow people to see more alternatives, to see other ways of living. When women and other oppressed groups in poor countries see how their counterparts in Western societies are treated, they begin to have ideas about how they want to be treated. Globalization is a great influence because people everywhere get all sorts of new ideas. They say, "Wow, things can be very different than I'm used to."
So keep doing business with Saudi Arabia, but in such a way that their women and other oppressed groups get crazy ideas in their heads. Who knows, maybe the Saudi Arabian ladies on Muslima.com will pull a shopping variation on Lysistrata: Don't even think about it until you've put together that goddamn SVEIO chest of drawers, honey.
Hat tip: Michelle Field's Twitter feed.