They could have easily included women without annoying anyone.
It's the fact that they focused so heavily on it that annoyed people. In a war where 99.9% of the war deaths were male, putting a female on the cover for your game, is just a deliberate political statement. That was a deliberate choice by them, but it's not necessary at all.
For comparison, see Assassin's Creed Odyssey, which has included a female option for the first time and has received almost no pushback for it. Because they did it well and didn't try and make a kind of social statement with it.