I don’t remember where I found this diagram. Wish I could, so I could give credit. To me, this diagram illustrates very directly and clearly some modes of character depiction that can be, and often are, the source of endless debate. I am not (really, really not) a visual artist, but these issues affect all art forms to a greater or lesser degree.
Note that the diagram does not, in any way, imply that one option is better than another, or that one is somehow “wrong”. Each option has its own appropriate place. The problem comes when: 1) a depiction mode is so overused that it stereotypes a sex (“Sexualized” for women, and, to a much lesser degree, in some places and some genres, “Heroically Idealized” for men); or 2) an artist (or worse yet, an audience) mistakes one mode of depiction for another.
Unfortunately, the diagram itself falls victim to the latter. While the “Realistic” Female is certainly more warmly dressed than the “Sexualized” Female (and certainly, gods help us, more practically armed and armored than the “Heroically Idealized” Female), she’s still sexualized. Could a reasonable-sounding argument be made as to why she’s wearing a vest that gives her cleavage to her belt buckle while the Realistic Male is wearing a heavy jacket of some kind with protective bits of metal sewn into it (apparently the best armor he can afford…see? I’m already developing a backstory for the guy)? Of course one could. But I wouldn’t believe it for a second.
Oh, I appreciate that she has some significant muscles, like she actually uses that sword, unlike the Sexualized Female and her…is that supposed to be a macuahuitl? But if you want to get an actual idea of what a Realistic Female in fantasy combat dress might look like, check out Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor or Babes in Armor. Of course, they both have a significant proportion of Heroically Idealized Females as well (though most have more reasonable weapons than that immovable slab of iron with a hilt; when you’re more Heroically Idealized than Conan, things have gotten out of hand), and as you may guess from the title, the latter has a fair number of Sexualized Females as well. Still, both at least give you a look at the real thing.