I think the social economic conditions do have a big influence on what we read or see. When there are so many unemployed then yes it makes sense for women to be persuaded that they are ditzy and a bit incapable, because that leaves more jobs for the men. I don't think it's a deliberate conspiracy though, publishers are producing what sells well, so that would suggest to me that people are buying this type of books more than they buy other books.
Personally I try not to read anything that could be classified as chick lit, but I have been known to read the odd one or two when I've run out of less fluffy reading material. I tend to read a lot of paranormal stuff, which might have a fair bit of romance and/or sex in it, but the main characters tend to be female and rather kickass. Other people think I'm a bit odd for my taste in books though.
True bof I've seen both of these examples cited in that article too. I suppose a chick lit house style cover makes a casual reader pick it up if they like pink and fluffy. Someone who possibly reads more would be looking for specific authors or a title: if they'd read a review and were after a particular book, rather than browsing, for something to pass a couple of hours, I suppose.
I suppose it depends on whether you want to read popular, lightweight stuff that is available, say at the Supermarket, so you're just picking up a quick read; or whether you have more literary fiction tastes such as Doris Lessing, Nadine Gordimer, Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood, or even some of Celia Aherne's stuff that wanders off into mental health issues, alcoholism etc.
I mainly read fiction by women authors and although there is some dross out there, there are a lot of contemporary women writers that have got a lot of interesting stuff to say. I tend to avoid pink covers with shoes or champagne glasses on them, or anything that describes the main character as feisty, or a shopaholic, looking for love though. It is quite a good screening device, for me, anyway.
SO today I was rereading a favourite example of what you might call chicklit - Rona Jaffe's After The Reunion, and maybe because of this topic etc I was kind of noticing that despite being a novel that was basically about shagging and shopping, it had a pretty powerful feminist undercurrent (women fighting for self-determination, experiencing hideous sexism etc). And I was thinking about other authors and books in this sort of area, particularly Lauren Henderson, whos books abruptly changed from being fairly kick-arse stuff (the Sam Jones novels with a stroppy, scruffy very independent heroine) to generic wussy lurve stories (suddenly it all went terribly nice-middle-class-girl-gets-dumped-then-finds-new-boyfriend). Was it after the gruesome Bridget Jones thing that books for women suddenly all went feeble?