Ikea’s hypocrisy on ‘gender equality’

Ikea, the Swedish home furnishing company, is under fire for contradicting its supposed commitment to gender equality. Ikea has been vocal in the past for its support of gay marriage, claiming that “gender” should not be discriminated against. However, in the most recent version of its catalog, women were removed from the Saudi Arabian version. The photos in the Saudi catalog are identical to the ones in catalogs from other countries, except for the unmistakable fact that female models were literally airbrushed out of existence. It is so obvious that Ikea has not even tried to deny the fact, or offer any sort of lane excuse; they have simply stated publicly their “regret” that it was done.

What is of particular interest in this scenario is how closely it parallels what conservatives have been pointing out for years. Liberals are quick to defend and align themselves with both the gay community and the Muslim community. Conservatives often remind liberals that the two communities are at odds with each other: Islam does not, and according to the Koran, cannot, endorse or approve of “gay marriage,” or any sort of “alternative lifestyle.” Muslims are far more hostile to the idea of same-sex marriage than many Christians (even though the Bible does not allow for it), yet liberals constantly portray Christians as the intolerant ones. It is not incredibly surprising then that a liberal outcry against Ikea has not, and will not, be forthcoming any time soon.

As a capitalist, I am not bothered by Ikea’s decision to remove women from the Saudi catalog. Ikea is, first and foremost, a business that is concerned with making money and attracting more and more customers to their products. Removing women from a catalog in a country were women are not recognized as being equal to men makes good business sense, but it makes for poor ethical sense. What Ikea is essentially saying with its decision is that, as a company, Islam is more important to it than gender issues. As a Christian, I cannot support this business decision, even though, as a capitalist, I can understand it.

What I can’t understand though, is the lack of concern from the gay community. It is no secret that Ikea supports gender and same-sex issues due to the fact that a good portion of their business comes from women and gays. By removing women to appease a Muslim country, Ikea is showing where their true commitment lies. Remember Chick-fil-A? Will the liberal and gay community be as aggressive in its protests and indignation against Ikea as it was against Dan Cathy and his restaurant chain? Don’t hold your breath! The only way for liberals to deal with contradiction is to ignore it; to pretend that it isn’t there. And that is exactly what they are doing, and will continue to do, with Ikea’s contradiction.