London: The BBC has ignited its second sexism spat in the space of a month by choosing a panda as one of its 12 female faces of the year.
Last week, it was criticised for choosing its annual BBC Sports Personality of the Year from an enirely male shortlist.
The decision to include the face of Tian Tian (Sweetie), a female panda whose arrival at Edinburgh Zoo on loan from China generated huge publicity earlier this month, has provoked a storm of angry tweets, including one from former deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.
"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," he wrote.
Labour MP Stella Creasy also tweeted: "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."
The corporation has also been criticised because a quarter of the female faces this year were chosen for their involvement in marriages.
They include 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.
Among the BBC's male faces of year were "King's Speech" actor Colin Firth, Tunisian Mohammed Bouazizi whose suicide sparked the Arab Spring revolutions and golfer Rory McIlroy who became the youngest player to win the U.S. Open.
Bob Chaundy, the freelance journalist who wrote the piece for the BBC, responded on Twitter: "I didn't choose the BBC women faces of the year subjects -- just wrote them. Two black eyes from wife though. Pandamonium!"
The BBC pointed out this was 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," it 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."
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