On Twitter the hasthtag #pandagate was trending as people slated the BBC’s decision to nominate Chinese panda Tian Tian (otherwise known as Sweetie) as one of its women of 2011.

Tian Tian, who is on loan from Beijing at the Edinburgh Zoo, takes her place alongside the likes of Libyan woman Eman al-Obeidi  who  burst into a Tripoli press conference to tell the foreign media that she had been beaten and gang-raped by Muammar Gaddafi’s militia.

Others women named on the BBC Women of 2011 list include US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who survived after being shot in the head when a gunman went on the rampage in her native Tuscon Arizona.

Hackney mother of four Pauline Pearce who stood up to rioters in one of 2011’s most watched Youtube clips also made the cut.

Adding more contention to the BBC’s list, some of the nominees appear to be on the list not for their achievements but because they were involved in high profile marriages. These include ‘Rear of the Year’ Pippa Middleton and Sarah Burton, the woman who designed Kate Middleton’s dress.

The row is heightened by the fact that the BBC failed to include a woman in its Sports personality of the year.

Here’s what Twitter users are saying about Pandagate:

“BBC apparently stuck in 1952, can’t find 10 humans to fill “Ten Women of the Year” list,” read one tweet.

Another said:  “Here’s why #pandagate matters: 3 out of 4 people in the news are men. Don’t give the 1 female slot to a panda.”

However, some have leapt to the BBC’s defence, pointing out that it’s not the first time an animal has been included in the list.

“The BBC listed a carp as a male face of 2009 and Peppa Pig as a female face of 2010.”