Sweetie the Giant Panda One of BBC's 'Woman of Year'
BBC is under fire for naming Sweetie the Panda Miss December 2011 in "Faces of the Year: The Women," with everyone from Parliament to Twitter users slamming BBC for causing "pandagate" less than month after it was criticized for "ignoring women's achievements." Reuters

BBC's Faces of the Year: The Women, which features women who made headlines in 2011 and included congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Pippa Middleton is being slammed for choosing a panda named Sweetie as its Miss December.

The panda, also known as Tian Tian, is one of two giant pandas on loan from China to the Edinburgh zoo, and is the lone animal face in a list of what is supposed to be recognition of women in the media.

As Twitter users take to the Internet to discuss #pandagate online, more prominent critics have tore into the network, already under fire for ignoring women's achievements in other areas, for making the women's selections a joke while choosing 12 humans for the list's male counterpart.

'It's not like Time magazine.'

On the men's list for Faces of the Year, the broadcaster chose such diverse but nonetheless prominent names as whistleblower Paul McMullan, actor Colin Firth and onetime GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain.

Defendors of the BBC's list point to the fact that quite a few of the male names are known better for their notoriety than for their good works or acheivements, and that the 2011 recaps in general are more about who's in the news than what they're in headlines for.

Freelance journalist Bob Chaudy, who wrote up the list, told The Guardian that although the unusual choices were not his decision (the selection was put together by BBC editors), the choices themselves are supposed to be offbeat and fun.

When you do faces of the year, it's not like Time [magazine], he said. They've picked slightly offbeat people. It's not David Attenborough or Barack Obama.

BBC Has History of 'Ignoring Women's Acheivements'

For many people, however, the move to crown Sweetie as December's Woman of the Year was just the straw that broke the panda's back.

Earlier this, BBC watchers were infuriated when the network neglected to include a single woman on its shortlist for Sports Personality of the Year, and several female MPs wrote to director general Mark Thompson to protest.

Members of Parliament have accused the broadcaster in the past of ignoring women's achievements, and viewers also note that Rear of the Year Pippa Middleton and designer Sarah Burton appear on the list simply for showcasing an excellent derriere and making Kate Middleton's dress for the royal wedding.

Labor MP Stella Creasy was so annoyed at BBC that she went to the Guardian with a statement on the matter, saying the network had a long way to go when it came to representing women without making them a joke.

Whilst we all love a good panda story, in a year when Christine Lagarde became head of the IMF, or Helle Throning-Schmidt became prime minister of Denmark, or even the sad death of Amy Winehouse, it's frustrating the BBC couldn't think of 12 human female faces who have made the news this year.

On the other side of the Atlantic, meanwhile, MSNBC's The Maddow Blog has already challenged readers to pick a women to replace Sweetie the panda as Miss December. Top choices so far include U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren and the young Iranian woman whose death sparked her identification as Face of a Revolution.

Birth of #PandaGate

Many people however, also decided to take to Twitter to vent the outrage faster, spreading a viral stream of mockery and derision BBC's way yesterday under the Twitter trend #pandagate.

Here's why #pandagate matters, journalist Catherine Mayer tweeted. 3 out fo 4 people in the news are men. Don't give the 1 female slot to a panda.

Others, like Creasey, pointed out the ridiculousness of choosing animal for a list about women in the first place, regardless of how offensive it might be.

Clue is in title 'women' not 'female of the species' of the year, she tweeted, while Welsh politician John Prescott noted that while BBc couldn't find a female sports personality, they could find a panda for a female face of 2011.

But most were content to mock the British broadcasters for being stuck in 1952, unable to pick almost any women outside of Sweetie the panda who weren't either part of the Royal-Middleton wedding ot were part of a sex or sex abuse scandal.

Some Twitter users, who called #pandagate pandemonium, noted that the choice for Miss December might fit with the BBC's demographic after all: it pictured a female with two black eyes.

BBC Has Done Animal 'Faces of Year' Before

In response to the furor caused by the choice of Sweetie the Panda for 2011's Faces of the Year, BBC spokesmen released a statement defending the choice, pointing out that the list has used animals before.

In 2009, Benson the Carp, a much-caught giant fish, was August's entry on the male list, the network said in a statement (the fish in question, it is interesting to note, was actually female). And last year Peppa the Pig was on the female list for April.

Coming as the list does so soon after BBC's failure to name a single woman in sports, however, and with a list that, in contrast to its male counterpart, has almost no women recognized for their acheivements, pandagate continues to be a hard pill for many to swallow.

Below, a full list of the male and female choices for 2011's Faces of the Year:

Women of 2011:

  • Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, shot by a crazed gunman
  • Singer Adele, who burst onto the scene in 2011
  • Libyan Eman al-Obeidi, who came forward after she was gang-raped by Gaddafi's militia
  • Sarah Burton, who designed Kate Middleton's wedding dress (Pippa Middleton in international edition)
  • Nafissatou Diallo, who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape
  • Jelena Lecic, part of an identity hoax called A Gay Girl in Damascus (tennis player Li Na in IE)
  • Charlene Wittstock, who married Prince Albert of Monaco
  • Pauline Pierce, the Hackney Heroine of the London riots (Rep. Michele Bachmann in IE)
  • Nurse Rebecca Leighton, accused of a saline murder plot (Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff in IE)
  • The Duchess of Alba, who remarried
  • U.S. Corporeal Kelsey de Santis, who took Justin Timberlake to the Marin Corps Ball
  • Sweetie (Tian Tian) the giant panda, on loan at Edinburgh zoo

Men of 2011:

  • Undercover cop Mark Kennedy, who infiltrated an environmental activist group
  • Actor Colin Firth, who won a Best Actor Oscar
  • Sean Donnelly, whose hit YouTube video took on Health Secretary Andrew Lansley
  • Ronan Kerr, a Catholic priest killed by a bomb in Northern Ireland
  • Vice-Admiral William McRaven, who masterminded attack that killed Osama bin Laden
  • Golfer Rory McIlroy, who won U.S. Open
  • Paul McMulla, whistelblower on newspaper phone hacking
  • Ashraf Haziq, robbed and beaten during London riots
  • Alan Graham, who slammed Rihanna for wearing a bikini on his farm
  • Scottish businessman Adam Werrity's whose too-close ties with UK Defense Secretary Liam Fox led to Fox's resignation
  • Welsh football manager gerry Speed, found hanged in apparent suicide
  • Herman Cain, onetime contender for the Republican presidential nomination