BBC Faces Sexism Accusations After Female Panda Makes Top 12 Female Faces of the Year List

Tian Tian Panda - H 2011
Getty Images

Tian Tian Panda - H 2011

Inclusion of Tian Tian gives Corporation two black eyes.

LONDON – The British media and beyond is atwitter with the news that the BBC has become embroiled in controversy after having named a panda as one of its 12 female faces of the year.

Selected by the BBC’s online Magazine, the inclusion of Tian Tian, also known as Sweetie -- the bear that arrived at Edinburgh Zoo this month from China -- has attracted controversy, sparking a sexism row for the Corporation.

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The BBC finds itself at the heart of sexism accusations for the second time in as many weeks after the pubcaster was criticized for choosing its annual BBC Sports Personality of the Year from an entirely male shortlist.

But the decision to include the face of Tian Tian as part of its list of 12 female faces of the year has set Twitter alight.

Former deputy prime minister John Prescott tweeted: “So the BBC couldn't find a woman for Sports Personality of the Year, but they could find a panda for a female face of 2011."

Labour MP Stella Creasy added: "No offence to Sweetie -- sure a lovely panda and best in the class etc -- but clue is in the title 'women' not 'female of the species' of the year."

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While the men of the year list included luminaries such as Oscar-winning actor Colin Firth, prospective Republic presidential nominee Herman Cain, and News of the World journalist Paul McMullan for his whistleblowing role in the phone-hacking scandal, it did not include the male panda brought to Edinburgh with Tian Tian.

The BBC online list has also been criticized because a quarter of the female faces this year were chosen for their involvement in marriages.

Prince William's new sister-in-law Pippa Middleton; South African Charlene Wittstock, who married Prince Albert of Monaco; and Spanish billionaire the Duchess of Alba, 85, who tied the knot with a civil servant 24 years her junior; made the list.

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The selection was made by BBC editors.

The BBC took the time to point out it is not the first time an animal had appeared in its Faces of the Year lists.

"Including Sweetie (Tian Tian) as one of the annual headline makers was a light-hearted addition to the list, and this isn't the first time it has featured a non-human," the BBC said in a statement.

In 2009, Benson the Carp, a much-caught giant fish, was August's entry on the male list and last year Peppa the Pig was on the female list for April.

The controversy is being dubbed Pandagate by internet wags.