Ikea furniture: Are Billy, Sofia and friends really sexist?

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It’s incredible what you can get at Ikea these days: those mugs with the too-small handles; fairy lights; beds; meatballs; a bit of casual sexism. If you were to have a flick through the Swedish flat-pack company’s substantial catalogue, paying attention to the names it gives its products, among the many Nordic place names it uses for things such as mirrors and bedside tables, it seems to have a distinctly gendered naming process.

Sturdy furniture items (not to mention ones that would require using the metal key to put together) are given boys’ names such as Josef (a cabinet) and Billy (a bookcase), while flouncy, pretty things such as fabric and pillowcases receive girls’ names, including Emmie (a duvet set) and Ursula (a throw).

OK, it’s not quite as bad as the incident last October when it emerged that the Saudi Arabian version of the Ikea catalogue had airbrushed out every single woman in it, but it still reeks of the same branch of sexism that dictates pink is for girls and blue is for boys.

And what’s wrong with calling a big timber wardrobe Alice?

Nils

Both men and women are pretty fond of sitting. But as you’re not able to fold this and it’s not made of lace, Ikea’s made it male.

Billy

Do girls even read books? We all know they would better spend their time plumping up the sofa pillows and folding up all those throws.

Josef

This cabinet is made predominantly of steel so it could just be a reference to Stalin. Anyway, it’s tough.  Also comes in  hot pink.

Ursula

Just look at this off-white, delicate patterned throw. Doesn’t it look so warm, so soft, so comforting? It must surely be female. How pretty.

Sofia

You’d presume this blue-and-white fabric was aimed at both sexes but you won’t find any of the fabrics at Ikea with boys’ names, only girls’.

Emmie Blom

There’s more than just a duvet set in the floral Emmie Blom range; there are also cushions and rugs. All fall under ‘home furnishings’.

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