What does it take to make an impression on the BBC? Apparently less than you think.
This week, BBC news magazine released a list of the 12 "Faces of the year 2011 — the women," one for each month. Some are obvious, some are surprising, but many readers found one in particular just plain offensive: Sweetie (Tian Tian), the Chinese panda, took the spot for December 2011. What did she do to deserve this acknowledgement?
According to the BBC,
Sweetie (Tian Tian), along with her fellow giant panda Sunshine (Yang Guang), was welcomed at Edinburgh airport with cheers and bagpipes after the pair's 11-hour journey from Chengdu in western China. Their arrival is the culmination of five years of lobbying by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and the government. Even the four pilots wore kilts in the pandas' honour. The pandas are on loan for a decade at a cost of £600,000 per year. Zoo bosses are hoping that Sweetie will produce cubs during that time."
With the (hopefully-to-be-impregnated) panda, that makes eight women who qualified for the list in a sexual or misogynistic capacity. Only four made the list on their own merits.
Women all over the world were understandably outraged, with "pandagate" trending on Twitter. This denial of recognition just compounded an earlier misstep by the BBC, when the news organization failed to include a single women on its list of nominees for BBC's Sports Personality of the Year.
Sure, women's basketball may not be an overwhelming international fan favorite, but was there really not a single female the BBC editors found more newsworthy than a panda bear?
Editor Giles Wilson wrote up a sort of justification, which was published on Thursday morning: "We generally produce a list of women and a list of men, and since we regard it as part of our job to make the list interesting and engaging, we try to include some choices which are not obvious or even predictable. . . This, after all, is not a definitive list of the most important or influential people. It's not based on people's achievements, their popularity or their contribution to society. And it's not a celebration of either gender's role in humanity — it's just a selection of some of the faces from the headlines from the past year."
Though it seems cliché and querulous to constantly point out every instance of sexism and injustice, it is apparent that this list marginalizes women.
Just take a look: Two women (Charlene Wittstock and the Duchess of Alba) were noted only because of their marriages, and two others on the list were allegedly raped (Eman al-Obeidi and Nafissatou Diallo).
Corporal Kelsey de Santis made the list for winning a dream date with Justin Timberlake, and (in the UK version) Sarah Burton for designing Kate Middleton's wedding dress (in the international version of the list, "Her Royal Hotness" Pippa Middleton replaces Burton for the face of April).
Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the pick for January, was shot by Jared Loughner, a young man who was "contemptuous of women in positions of power."
With the (hopefully-to-be-impregnated) panda, that makes eight women who qualified for the list in a sexual or misogynistic capacity. Only four made the list on their own merits. Compare that to the "Faces of the year 2011 — the men" — the UK or the international version.
But beyond that, some argue that the presence of the panda on this list cheapens the honor for the other women. What do you think?