You know, I am aware that there is sexism in Gurren Lagann. I don't deny it. It's been improved a lot in the movies, but personally, it never bothered me too much even in the TV series because it was balanced by the fact that the women in the show are assertive, awesome, and when it comes to romance, usually wearing the pants in the relationship. I love all the female characters. Even if they're objectified at times, or don't have important roles, or end up being the damsel-in-distress, they still have their own personalities and strength of will.
I'll start by talking about what sparked my thoughts on the subject: the Yoko VS Adiane fight in Gurren-hen. Now, this scene was clearly created as a form of fanservice. In interviews, the creators all described it as a "cat fight" and how they wanted to make it hot. But that was nothing new, so I looked forward to it for a chance of seeing these two females be badass.
When I finally saw it, I was not annoyed or distracted by the fanservice. In fact, I barely noticed it. I was too busy being impressed by how brutal it was. If the girls were just slapping each other around as if they weren't both seasoned warriors, then I would have been very annoyed. But no. The first thing Yoko does is convert her rifle into a friggin machine gun and kill some beastmen (you can see blood! they're being slaughtered!). She recognizes that this is a boss battle and gears up. Then there's hair-stomping. Stabbing. Adiane delivers a harsh beatdown and friggin cuts off her own tail to escape being shot at point-blank range. Yes, Yoko loses her bra, but only for a moment, and it's in the middle of her Crowning Moment of Awesome. As a result, seeing her lose her bra didn't make me think "oh great, now she's half-naked" so much as "OMG CAN I HAVE YOUR BABIES." It was badass. I mean, wearing clothes like that, it would be natural for things to tear or come off in a brawl. The only thing that could have made the fight better was if it lasted longer.
And no, I'm not bothered by the fact that the internal motivations behind the fight centered around two men. In fact, that made me like it more. I love reverse chivalry. So often you see men fighting for the honor of a woman, but here you have two women fighting for the honor of their fallen men. Awesome. It's the same reason why I became full of pride and joy when I learned that Nia gets to save Simon's life in the second movie. I love how, despite the show being so GAR HOTBLOODED MANLY, it's not afraid to show the guys being weak and vulnerable and human. The women fight right beside them, and don't hesitate to save or protect the men when they need it.
I think I've mentioned before how I liked seeing Kittan and his sisters fighting as a team in the movie, but it's worth mentioning again. They saved his ass. They got to be badass and shout their names with the rest of the guys. There's at least four girls participating in the final attack. Oh, and I never see anyone mention the fact that Kiyal has her own Gunmen that's named after her (though, it is pink).
Though, the treatment of Kittan's sisters is the most evident when it comes to sexism in the series. After all, they originally weren't even created with their own personalities, only being developed as the series was being made. The reasons for their creation was because the cast lacked females and so they could take part in the hot springs episode. Though Kiyoh and Kiyal were also shown fighting in the TV series, they didn't get enough screentime for them to seem more than accessories to their brother, and they weren't shown fighting again in the second half of the show. Kinon's large role in the 3rd arc was unexpected by most of the staff, and active as she was, she was shown neglecting her family for the sake of a guy.
The three sisters were generally under-developed compared to Yoko and Nia...but then, the other guys in the Gurren-dan (Zoushi, Makken, Kidd, Ailac, etc.) were barely developed much either. And I can't go without mentioning other awesome females like Leite, Darry, and Cybela, all of whom did participate in the final battle in their own different ways. A mechanic, an ace pilot, an operator...at least there's diversity in roles.
...I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but I mind as well mention that I'm annoyed seeing people, Nia-haters specifically, bashing Nia for being a "useless damsel-in-distress" in the TV series, and now calling her an "over-powered Mary Sue" because she gets more focus, development, and kickass scenes in the second movie (which she is the heroine of, hello!). You just can't win with these people, they will never like her.
I also hate the stupid Yoko VS Nia/Nia VS Yoko debates I've been seeing on 4chan. The characters like and appreciate each other in canon. I can understand disliking a character, but it is entirely possible to defend one character without bashing another, believe me. This also goes for the Kamina VS Nia/Nia VS Kamina debates. Nia never talked trash about Kamina; sure, she was tactless at first, but that's due to her upbringing (and oh look, a character flaw!). She didn't mean to hurt anyone, she only wanted to help Simon. She respects and admires Kamina a lot considering she never met him personally. And Konishi (Kamina's VA) stated that his favorite scene in the second movie was Nia writing letters to Kamina, and that it made him cry.
...Aaand I can't think of a nice way to conclude this, so I'll just end it here I guess. :|