This week Sweden’s famous build-it-yourself furniture company went from big box to bigot box. The international company actually has a long history of LGBT inclusion, offering same-sex partner benefits regardless of the country where a store is located. They have included images of gay and lesbian couples in their advertising and promotional materials for years — including an ad in the US in the 90s that was very cutting edge for its day, up to this point, I say Bravo, IKEA.
Sadly, IKEA’s leadership has decided to take a giant step backwards. The current issue of IKEA Family Living, the promotional magazine given out in the stores, includes this feature about a lesbian couple in England and their son. Well, it includes that feature in every country except one.
Surrendering to Russia’s draconian new “gay propaganda” law, the furniture giant created a separate version of the magazine for its Russian stores. This is a blatant act of censorship and cowardice. Talking out of both sides of her charming salad bowl speakers, IKEA spokesperson Ylva Magnusson contorts like someone trying to assemble a folding bookshelf. Regarding Russia’s law, she says:
Our business is of course focused on home furnishings and we’ll be neutral.
In the words of the lovely and amazing Howard Zinn: “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.” What a sad dismissal of years of progressive business practices! Of course Magnusson tries to focus on that aspect, saying:
By being an inclusive employer, it provides both a better working environment and allows us to make better decisions.
But that, of course, is also a violation of Russian law, at least implicitly. The hypocrisy is palpable.
IKEA had a choice. They could have stood firm, running the very small risk that the Russian government would pursue legal action against a major international corporation. They didn’t. They could have made a point by depriving Russian shoppers of the magazine altogether, putting a “banned as gay propaganda” sign in the dispensers. They didn’t. Instead they made a callow, callous business decision, reinforcing a tragic law that damages millions of lives.
Badly done IKEA. No meatball for you! I would encourage people to boycott IKEA at this point.