From “Young Females as Superheroes: Superheroines in the World of Sailor Moon” from FemSpec journal:
“Further illustrating the negotiation of femininity and empowerment, girl power characters are often represented in a fantasy setting. This is a particularly significant factor when interpreting these characters in terms of their fighting abilities. The heroes generally face fantastic villains that are often unmistakably evil and are represented as protectors of innocence and humanity. This reinforces the idea that girl power heroes should have a nurturing, protective nature: both one of the conflicting femininities described by Douglas and an aspect of femininity reclaimed within third wave feminism.
“… Fantasy helps to alleviate the threat of castration because these characters are not meant to represent reality. Thus, the threat itself is marked ‘not real’.”
I think this was what Sady Doyle was trying to get at in her scathing critique of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire series which, while valid, didn’t win her many fans in the fantasy community.
In a nutshell, I think she was trying to say that women experience sexism, rape, sexual harassment and value based only on their looks in everyday real life; we don’t need to be represented that way in fantasy too, where the author has the opportunity to create an alternate reality for women.
In FemSpec (an article which I originally accessed online but has since been taken down), the author studies Sailor Moon and how the heroines in that were created as a response to third wave feminism, but as a large portion of the show and manga’s audience is male, they’re typically feminised in order to eliminate threat to the status quo.
I’m not a fantasy fan, but I think we can all agree on less sexism in fantasy (nay, all fiction. Or, here’s a radical idea, in real life!) and more accurate portrayals of what it’s like to be a woman that doesn’t centre around sexuality.