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Anger as BBC Chooses Panda as December Woman 2011

The BBC has caused outrage by choosing a panda as one of its 12 women of 2011.

The selection of Tian Tian (aka Sweetie) was made by the BBC magazine for its Faces of the year 2011 and published on Wednesday. It included a page for both a dozen women and men for each month, guardian.co.uk reports

The women’s page included US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), British singer Adele and Nafissatou Diallo, the woman who accused International Monetary Fund Chief Dominique Strauss Kahn of sexual assault.

The men’s page included the likes of 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. Unlike the women’s page all of the individuals were people.

Twitter users also complained that rather than being selected for their achievements one in four selected women included those involved in marriages, such as Pippa Middleton, Charlene Wittstock who married Prince Albert of Monaco, and the Spanish billionaire the Duchess of Alba.

On both the domestic and the international version of the BBC compilation, the December choice was for Sweetie, a giant panda at Edinburgh zoo. The animal is on loan from Beijing.

Freelance journalist Bob Chaundy, whose name appears at the bottom of the BBC’s webpage, agreed it was an odd choice but denied he had made the selection. He told the Guardian the selection was put together by BBC editors and that he only wrote up their choices.

Responding to the debacle, which sent the Twitter hashtag #pandagate trending, Chaundy tweeted: “I didn’t choose the BBC women faces of the year subjects, just wrote them. Two black eyes from wife though. Pandamonium!”

The selection follows on from the BBC’s failure to nominate a woman for the Sports Personality of the Year award.

When the all-male sports personality shortlist was announced last month a group of female MPs wrote to its director general, Mark Thompson, saying: “This bias has led to a number of outstanding sporting achievements by women being entirely disregarded.”

Speaking about the BBC’s faces of the year, the Labour MP Stella Creasy said the broadcaster had a long way to go when it comes to representing women. “Whilst we all love a good panda story, in a year when Christine Lagarde became head of the IMF, or Helle Thorning-Schmidt became prime minister of Denmark or even the sad death of Amy Winehouse, its frustrating the BBC couldn’t think of 12 human female faces who have made the news this year.

“These lists aren’t meant to be serious but coming so soon after the lack of women from their Sports Personality of the Year award it does seem as if the BBC hasn’t noticed the wide and varied contribution women make to public life.”

In response, the BBC said that it was not the first time that animals – or their cartoon representations – had been chosen for the women’s or men’s pages.

“Including Sweetie as one for 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. 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 [2010],” the BBC said.