The BBC has defended its decision to name a panda among the 12 women in its Faces of 2011 as "a light-hearted addition" to the list.
Sweetie, who is also known as Tian Tian, is one of a pair of pandas newly installed at Edinburgh Zoo.
The animal joins 11 other notable names on the BBC list including shot US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, singer Adele and Pauline Pearce - who was dubbed the heroine of Hackney after she was filmed standing up to rioters in north London.
A BBC spokeswoman said: "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 the Pig was on the female list for April."
The bears were brought to Scotland from China in the hope that they will produce cubs.
Sweetie's inclusion has caused a stir on micro-blogging site Twitter, with many users suggesting alternative names for "#realwomenoftheyear".
One user of the site, who tweets under the name campaigner, wrote: "I'm rather torn over #pandagate. These things are never just black or white."
The BBC came under fire last month after its shortlist for the Sports Personality of the Year award did not include any women.
MPs accused the BBC of "ignoring women's achievements" in 2011 by choosing an all-male shortlist.