I've recently started preliminary research for my history phd, which is very exciting (to me, anyway). My research doesn't centre around gender, but the growing role of women in medical practice during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is part of the background. Women were viewed (by men who were afraid of more competition for jobs) to be too emotional for the meticulous scientific practice of medicine. Seems strange to think of now, though many women of the time held that view too.
Nowadays, western women live in societies that purportedly embrace equality. And I think that men and women are generally different. But the way in which chick-lit writers are regarded shows that in writing, at least, there is still a long way to go.
Novelist Talli Roland wrote an insightful (and brilliantly titled) blog post last week that asked the question: why do women feel the need to apologise for the type of books they write. Men can write light fiction, and it isn't viewed as a sum of their total intellectual abilities. With women, a pastel cover apparently indicates: stupid, frivolous content.
Why haven't we moved on from this pettiness? I'm not going to get into the many issues that chick-lit has covered, because Talli is right. It shouldn't need to be defended. And honestly? The people who spout this ridiculousness tend to have a chip on their shoulder, and their comments say more about them than the genre they're taking shots at. Like with the nineteenth century medical profession, these comments are more a sign of their fear of becoming irrelevant to the discussion.