BBC drawn into sexism row that's anything but black and white

  • @tompeck

The BBC found itself at the centre of another Twitter-stoked sexism row yesterday after the female section of its "Faces of the Year" list included Sweetie, a giant panda recently moved to Edinburgh zoo.

Thousands of complaints appeared on the microblogging site, mostly from people disappointed that, after the anger caused by its male-only shortlist for Sports Personality of the Year, the BBC was seemingly unable to find 12 actual women for its "Women of the Year".

The list in question was intended to be a selection of notable faces from the year's news. Many of the entries had not actually done anything significant; they included the South African Charlene Wittstock, who married Prince Albert of Monaco, and Rebecca Leighton, the nurse arrested and subsequently cleared of poisoning patients with saline solution at a Stockport hospital. The men's list included Adam Werrity, friend of the former Defence Secretary Liam Fox, and the former US presidential hopeful Herman Cain.

Stella Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow, attacked the BBC for its decision. "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."

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

A little inconveniently, Benson was actually female, though miraculously this slipped by unnoticed at the time.