In the 1950s, Betty Page did a great job of visually representing women's power imbalances. People seemed to like her for it. (I don't count Estes Kefauver as a person.)
There's a scene in a 1955 Doris Day movie, "Love Me or Leave Me," that perfectly encapsulates the differences between Then And Now as far as the power balance between the sexes goes. In the movie, Doris plays jazz singer Ruth Etting, and to open their act, her revue's showgirls (of which she was one at that stage in her career), all of them scantily clad (for a 1950s movie) run from the back of the room to the stage, with plenty of tail-shaking going on in the process.
A drunken middle-aged man and his wife are sitting at a table near the stage, and as hottie Doris passes by, he makes a boozy grab for her.
The wife, of course, is outraged. She does the only proper thing. She slaps Doris and calls her a hussy. Doris goes running backstage, sobbing, cut to the quick by the accusation.
Now, at no time did Doris entice the man to make a grab at her. All she did was run from the rear of the room to the stage with her too young, too firm, too nubile body in it's too-sexy (for the 1950s) outfit.
All of the onus for the grab clearly belonged to the boozy letch. But But the wife slapped Doris, not her boozy letch of a husband. She had to slap someone for this affront to her wifehood, and she couldn't slap her husband, because he was her meal ticket, her financial security, her protector. Hell, she might even love him.
So she slapped Doris, and justified it by calling her a hussy.
In a modern movie, it would be clear and obvious to all that the wife's attack on Doris was blatantly hypociritical, if not extraordinarily hypocritical. But in the 1950s, this kind of hypocrisy was business as usual. Most women were homemakers, there weren't a lot of career paths for women other than "wife" and an attractive young hussy could post a great peril to your average well-to-do middle class housewife, who wouldn't have much "resale" value with her aging body on the marriage market, in comparison to nubile young hussies.
Because of these factors and others such as the sexist culture that made them possible, the 1950s were a time of great power imbalances between men and women.
This imbalance made it possible to produce romantic stories that dealt with power imbalances between the sexes in a matter-of-fact way, rather than as a social issue to be overcome. We'll look at such a film in the next post on this topic.