IKEA is scrambling to explain the fact that they photo-shopped women and girls out of the IKEA catalog distributed in Saudi Arabia. Last year, in December, Jewish women in the United States and Great Britain joined together to confront a similar situation in which they took photographs of themselves holding up a sign that read “Women should be seen and heard” in a campaign to fight an ultra-Orthodox movement to remove females from billboards in Jerusalem.
IKEA dodged and burned and erased women right out of brushing their teeth, putting away their groceries, eating dinner. Not even a scantily clad lass in the bunch. Just women in spaces with men. As Katie J.M. Baker put it in Jezebel, “Are the women clad in lingerie and doing strip-pole dances on Signum shoe organizers? Hardly. Flip through the slideshow above and you’ll see a woman having dinner with her husband at home replaced by a totally empty table (no family at all > ladies, it seems), as well as a woman brushing her teeth in her pajamas Photoshopped out while the rest of her family remains in the bathroom…even an IKEA designer was Photoshopped out, while the other three male designers remained.
IKEA is sorry and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not.
Maybe what IKEA needs is a “CAVE TO RELIGIOUS EXTREMISTS AND MISOGYNISTS WOMEN’S CATALOG MONTH?” During that month they can publish catalogs filled with women to demonstrate that women do indeed have an equal role in their marketing communications strategy.
And, what about the “us” part?
Well, yesterday, I mortified one of my 13 year olds when I talked to her history teacher about making sure that the curriculum included both the Vindication of the Rights of Women and the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments.
You know what those are, right? Because all children are taught about Mary Wollstencraft’s 1792 manifesto in defense of women’s education named, aptly, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. I mean, who doesn’t know about this philosopher’s influential contribution to feminist thought and impassioned defense of educating girls?
No, well, then, in that case, you must remember Abigail Adams, a founding mother – now there’s a phrase every school child in America learns, right? She wrote letters to her husband, in which she said things like:
“I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.”
“Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands.”
“Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”
Can you imagine that? I mean, imagine taking the right to vote away from men in New Jersey today.
Oh well, at the very least, you must have been asked as a child to memorized portions of the 1848 Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiment and Resolutions? I mean, what kind of culture erases from its textbooks a document that revises the Declaration of Independence to make it include the female half of the country (well, white at least)? Compare:
Declaration of Independence:
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
Declaration of Sentiments?
“When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course.”
Independence? “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable.”
Sentiments? “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”
For a fun and nostalgic review of topics that you, undoubtedly were immersed in when you went to school, check this point by point comparison of the two documents out.
What did the women of 1843 have to say about this problem?
“The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.”
Well, maybe if we’d all been taught what they said we wouldn’t STILL BE SAYING the same thing. Like, for example,
“He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice.” (Gee…I didn’t realize Congress also held panels on women’s health care in the 19th century.)
“He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men–both natives and foreigners.” Now, some of these women, like some of our founding fathers, were not interested in racial equality. The Seneca Falls Declaration, made in 1848, was preceded by 15 years by the 1833 DECLARATION OF SENTIMENTS OF THE AMERICAN ANTI-SLAVERY CONVENTION. The people who are seeking to disenfranchise people today are treating “native and foreign men and women” equally by pursuing rights suppressing voter ID laws. In most analyses however, you don’t hear that 32 million people, of varying shades of color but unified by their possession of xx chromosomes, will potentially be unable to vote.
“He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration.” He closes against her all the avenues to wealth and distinction which he considers most honorable to himself. He allows her in Church, as well as State, but a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the Church.” That last bit is self-explanatory.
“He has created a false public sentiment by giving to the world a different code of morals for men and women, by which moral delinquencies which exclude women from society, are not only tolerated, but deemed of little account in man.” In modern parlance, Jessica Valenti’s He’s A Stud, She’s A Slut (and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know)
For the life of me, I cannot figure out why people, so horrified by IKEA’s poor business decision aren’t outraged by the writing of women and girls out of history, science, religious thought, philosophy being taught in our schools every single day. Or, the way in which women’s work is habitually ignored or made inconsequential in media. For example, earlier this week the Mother Jones ran a story about President Obama’s crack digital marketing strategist – but left out all the women. They updated the piece with this explanation after readers responded negatively to their completely leaving women strategists out of the entire piece…” As many readers pointed out, there was one glaring oversight in what was meant to be a snapshot of the Obama digital world: women.”
I’d say IKEA just got called out when others rarely are.