You raised some very good points, especially regarding The Lord of the Rings. I still love those books, but recognize they are problematic when it comes to the representation of women.
But as for The Wheel of Time series, I disagree (spoilers for the WoT books 1–9 to follow): I’m currently reading the series and what I really love is that most of the main female characters have story arcs of their own, seperate from their romantic relationships with men. Yes, Elayne and Aviendha are both in love with Rand, but they also develop a strong relationship between themselves, becoming first-sisters in an Aiel ceremony and deciding that both of them loving Rand should be no hurdle to them loving each other. I was relieved there was no traditional jealous cattiness and “only one woman can win a man’s heart” trope was trashed in a polyamorous relationship where all pariticpants love and respect each other (Rand/Elayne/Aviendha/Min).
Elayne’s arc centers on her reclaiming and consolidating her kingdom. Aviendha’s trying to find her place in the world after being a Maiden was taken away from not by her choice. Min fights against traditional gender roles not only in how she dresses and cuts her hair, but also by avidly studying a philosopher’s books to help Rand and for her own enjoyment and growth.
Egwene is put in a position of power as a pawn and struggles to carve out her own authority playing different factions against each other.
Nynaeve loves Lan, but she’s also more concerned with pursuing Aes Sedai goals and her interest in Healing. I really loved that both her and Elayne chose to first to go to Tanchico in pursue of the Black Ajah, then to join the rebel Aes Sedai and then to look for the Bowl of the Winds in Ebou Dar instead of going after their menz, because they recognized that these tasks were more important for the sake of the world. These are priorites I can get behind!
And they have all distinct personality traits: Elayne is brave, proud, diplomatic, decisive, Aviendha loyal to the extreme, also brave, humble and hot-headed; Nynaeve impulsive, a bit conceited, harsh, insecure and also hot-headed.
Perrin’s wife Faile, after being taken captive by the rogue Aiel, only thinks how to get a vital piece of strategic information to her husband, not caring if he comes to rescue her (she’ll take care of that herself).
I could go on. Yes, the WoT female characters may be sometimes unlikable and I didn’t like the squabbling incidents in Book 5 that you mention. But didn’t you also point out that female characters should be allowed to be flawed? The women of WoT are very flawed, but very interesting as well. I have no problem rooting for Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne and others.
And Moiraine? She’s a great mentor figure (“a female Gandalf”) that I really admire for sacrificing all her life for her search of the Dragon Reborn, because she wants to save all of creation and will do anything to achieve that goal.
I think that the Aes Sedai as an order were meant to be ulikable, as they grew too power-hungry and proud during the milennia following the Breaking of the World and need to be taken down a peg from their lofty pedestal. It shows that pride ultimately leads you to failure (a theme persistent in the WoT saga).
I think you should try and give later books a go. I stuggled with the series as well until the latter half of Book 5, but later it is seriosuly got better and now I can’t stop reading.