Briefly, how does Steinbeck explore different attitudes to women in Of Mice and Men?
There are three females depicted in the text; two of them are characters and one is just mentioned. The women are Curley's wife, Aunt Clara and the madam of the brothel.
The madam is only discussed by reputation, but is seen as a positive figure offering the men a place to go and relax without pressure and with female company (not always sexual).
Aunt Clara is not well-defined, but appears by reputation in the opening chapter and via Lennie's hallucination in the novel's final chapter. Clara is another caretaker and matriarch, somewhat like the madam.
Curley's wife is a far more complex figure in the text than the other women. She is not matronly or affectionate or strong, but is instead as threatening as she is frightened. Curley's wife is, ultimately, more like the ranch hands than the other female figures in the text. She also suffers in a position of social powerlessness and clings to a dream that will never be realized.
...she is pathetically lonely and had once had dreams of being a movie star. (eNotes)
Women, then, are presented variously in the text as comforters and as threats, as matriarchs and as "colleagues" to the men.
Steinbeck does not portray women with kindniess in this novella. In this short piece, there are few women, prostitutes (Susy and her 'girls'), the deceased Aunt Clara that took Lennie in as a baby, and Curley's wife. Steinbeck emphasizes the fraternity of men as superior to the "messes" that women cause when men are unfortunate enough to allow themselves to become involved with them.