‘Pandagate’: BBC taken to task for including panda in female ‘Faces of the Year’ list

‘Tis the season for year in review lists and one list has caused quite a stir this week. BBC has received flak for its “Faces of the year 2011 – the women list” after it included the Chinese panda Tian Tian, also known as Sweetie, as one of the 12 women who made headlines this year. A similar list of male faces of the year list contained only actual people.

BBC – “Faces of the year 2011 – the women”

Sweetie along with her male counterpart, Yang Guang or Sunshine, arrived at the Edinburgh Zoo on loan from China earlier this month. Sunshine was not included on a list on his own.

After the release of the list, “#pandagate” began trending Twitter. Critics, including those on Twitter, took the BBC to task for the decision as well as other choices on the list. Four women, many noted, were included because of their involvement in marriages including Pippa Middleton (sister of Kate Middleton who wed Prince William), Sarah Burton (who designed Kate Middleton’s dress), Charlene Wittstock and the Duchess of Alba. In addition, two of the women were on the list as alleged sexual assault victims — Nafissatou Diallo, who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and Eman al-Obeidi, the woman from Libya who told reporters she’d been raped by Gaddafi forces.

Several reports made note that the panda’s inclusion was particularly of issue since several headline-making women were not on the list. According to the Guardian, Labour MP Stella Creasy mentioned several women who made waves this year such as new IMF head Christine Lagarde, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who became prime minister of Denmark, or the death of singer Amy Winehouse.

According to news sources, the BBC’s response was to note that this wasn’t the first time non-humans have been included as a “lighthearted” addition to the list – Peppa Pig was on the female list in 2010 and Benson the Carp was on the male list in 2009.

Many news reports made mention of an issue with a different list the BBC released earlier this year. BBC also came under fire for its Sports Personality of the Year awards’ 10-name short-list, which contained only male athletes.

Other “of the year” lists have also been critiqued, including the decision to pick Kate Middleton over Gabrielle Giffords as a runner-up to TIME’s Person of the Year and the naming of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s wife, Anne Sinclair, as France’s “Woman of the Year” based on an opinion poll.

Read more about this issue in this round-up of stories:

For year-end lists without pandas, check out these selections and share others in the comment section below:


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