Great article by Dan Wohl:
I don’t mean to badmouth history altogether. On the contrary, I’d characterize myself as a lover of history, and I think it’s terrific that so many creators of fiction are inspired by it. We have a ton to appreciate when it comes to the people, stories, and art that history gives us, just as we have a ton of bad things to recognize and learn from so we don’t do them today.
But I think we need to think hard about what the point of historically inspired fantasies are. I think the main purpose of drawing upon history to inform such universes is to take advantage of the cultural and artistic motifs that are part of our shared human folklore, and that’s it.
I’d argue that they rarely have much to do with exploring issues of the real history in question—the patriarchy of Game of Thrones is commented on but never seriously challenged, and I doubt many people playing Assassin’s Creed III would consider the protagonist’s maleness a statement about gender issues of the time.
As an aside, my daughter loves the Assassins Creed games but constantly asks why she can't just play a girl.
It's a great article, and Tansy Rayner Roberts, far more qualified than I, has written her own commentary on it:
[...] I think Battlestar Galactica showed us that you can have female characters on the front lines of your story and still tell very close to the same kinds of stories as you would have done if the soldiers were all men. The Starship Troopers movie, adapting a much earlier work, showed this too. OK those are science fiction, but fantasy does not have to be hamstrung by the social conventions of the past. If you want those social conventions in place for other story reasons then you can get around that too by bringing women into the story. Terry Pratchett’s Monstrous Regiment has a lot to say about the different kinds of women you might find on a battlefield, and the many different reasons why they might be there despite restrictive social mores. Or, you know, you could read some actual history, because for all its patriarchal leanings, you will find that women’s roles in war were a lot more varied than many people expect.
Do read the original and Tansy's take on it.
The original article here: http://www.themarysue.com/sexism-in-historical-fantasy/
Tansy's commentary here: http://tansyrr.com/tansywp/historically-authentic-sexism-in-fantasy-lets-unpack-that/