It is often said, not unfairly, that the track record of Christianity is anti-female. For example, despite the fact that the first evangelists were women (the women at the empty tomb), women in most denominations are not allowed to be priests. Is this bias inherent to Christianity?
The new testament is often quoted to support the view that women have a specific subordinate role in Christianity. In particular verses can be quoted which instruct women to "obey their husbands" and which limit their role in churches and in worship. It can be difficult to determine whether these scriptural views are simply a product of their historical circumstances (an agricultural middle eastern society which was inherently misogynist) or whether they are simply selectively quoted to support an anti-female bias external to the teachings in order to justify continuing the status quo of prejudice against women.
Right at the start of the Bible is a creation account which already illustrates this contradictions in how women are perceived.
Genesis 1:27 - And God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them.
Genesis 2:22 - Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man (NKJV).
At first reading one doesn't necessarily notice the difference between these two verses. Yet if one looks at these two verses directly next to each other it seems to me that one sentence is implying a simultaneous and equal creation of woman and the other account implies that woman was created after man (and is possibly therefore of lesser importance in that she is derived from a man).
Many modern scholars, in particular those who employ the historical critical method of studying the Bible, believe that these two "contradictory" verses are actually written by two separate voices (writers) in Genesis. These scholars believe that Genesis is a synthesis of two different earlier texts written by two separate authors. It is likely that these two writers may have had very differing views on the role of women in relation to men. The fact that they use different words for God in the original language increases the likelihood that they understood God and society in a slightly different way.
I have placed a link in the references section below to a more conservative traditional viewpoint which defends a harmonised version of only one creation account. However, I think for those who do not accept a secondary role for women in Christianity, the possibility of a contradiction and a disagreement within the two Genesis accounts is a far more rational interpretation of the differences. We can either try to harmonise the apparent difference by reconciling the two points, or we can accept the possibility that there are two different accounts with two different viewpoints towards women in the Genesis creation.
Trying to harmonise differences in manuscripts creates in my opinion an artificial level of difficulty in trying to understand the purpose of a scripture. One becomes tangled up in trying to perform acrobatics reconciling contradictions, instead of simply acknowledging that different people have different views and trying to understand what can be gained from spiritually from the text. The vast majority of modern biblical scholars, both Jewish and Christian, accept the theory that Genesis was written by at least two different authors.
It has been said that trying to find Jesus is like looking into a well. The more one looks, the more one sees one's own reflection looking back. Perhaps trying to understand what the Bible really says about women is similar. Do we chose to quote Paul's instruction that women should not be teachers of men, or do we quote Paul's statement that "there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus"?