Also, our idea of a sympathetic character changes a lot over time, too. An authentic historical "hero" from many eras would have thought nothing of owning slaves (or something close to it), would be content to shun a lower-status woman who had been raped because she brought it on herself somehow, would have no problem with preteen girls being forced into prostitution, and would have taken an extremely lax view of fidelity in marriage (at least for the male half of the couple). But try to put any of those qualities into a book for modern readers and everyone would hate the character. Similarly, it would be hard to sympathize with a female character who truly believed she was not capable of making decisions, exerting her influence on anyone except servants/slaves, or doing anything except sewing and housework.
I know I'd much rather read about the historical anomalies.
That was where I ran into trouble with my editor. Because the protagonist was formerly a slave, Editor thought that he ought to be a rip-roaring abolitionist. He was supposed to ... well, drat, I don't know what she thought he could
do! Slavery was integral to the world that I constructed, so there was no way that he could change things. It wasn't enough that he freed the slaves that later came into his possession. Maybe he was supposed to campaign for slavery to be made illegal? That wasn't the story that I wanted to tell.
She also objected to him boinking tavern girls and servant girls, even though as a mercenary guardsman, women of that social class were the only females available to him. He was supposed to nobly abstain, I guess. (And he just spoke up in the back of my mind, saying "Riiiiiiiiiiight!")
And my female protagonist WAS raised with the idea that she was inferior to men, that she was expected to marry the man that her father chose for her, that her place in society was as a genteel lady of the minor nobility. She sings, plays music, embroiders, etc. When she kills the bad guy, she's terrified that her husband will be furious with her, because defending her was HIS job.