Over the past decade or so, video games have matured to be a more inclusive hobby that virtually anyone can take part in without feeling unreasonably excluded. Today, it isn't unusual for a game to give you a chance to play as or encounter characters who are female, and there are no shortage of games that feature characters that come from all walks of life. That's not to say that we have reached the apex of equality in games, but it is a far cry from the days when games were pretty much marketed exclusively to boys. Oddly enough though, the latest game to catch some flack over the exclusion of women is Battlefield 1, EA's upcoming World War 1 themed game.
According to Amandine Coget, a former DICE employee, Battlefield 1 was originally going to feature female characters in the multiplayer, but the decision was reversed when the developers wanted to focus on realism. However, she also claimed that the real reason behind this change was that "female soldiers are not [believable], to the core audience of boys."
Regardless on where you stand on the issue, the claim that DICE is not including female characters in multiplayer for the sake of realism is a pretty valid (if convenient) excuse. After all, there are very, very few accounts of females serving in combat positions during the war, to the point that you may as well say that it was statistically impossible for a woman to serve in any of the armed forces of the participant nations during the conflict. On top of that, Battlefield games aren't exactly known for deep character customization (or any character customization), so it's not like it's a new gameplay mechanic that exists for the sole purpose of making you play as a male character.
Of course, you could say that there's no reason not to give players an option to play as a female character in multiplayer, given that almost every other modern game has at least given you a choice, but that is a rather shaky argument at best. At its core, this is a decision that is made at the creative level, and if the developer feels like their work should look and feel as such, then that should be the end of the discussion. It is no different from going up to an artist and demanding that they change their work of art for one reason or another even though you have not seen the finished product.
Even in the grand scheme of things, where equal portrayal of the sexes in media is an important topic, Battlefield 1's lack of female multiplayer characters shouldn't even be an issue. It's not as if people were expecting to play as female characters to begin with, especially given the context of the game, and the suspension of disbelief only goes so far when it is a historical fact (that schools should have drilled into your head) that society at the time did not think that women should fill the same roles as men. Like most movements, the demand for the equal portrayal of the sexes only makes progress if it picks its battles in an intelligent way, and criticizing the multiplayer portion of a game that is based on a historical event is hardly a smart battle.