This week's question comes from a woman on Online America. "Why is the Bible so sexist?"
It seems to me the question begs another thought: Is the Bible sexist? From early on in the book of Genesis through the majority of the Bible the dominance of male over female is a repetitive theme. In Genesis 3:16 the woman is told she shall be subservient to her husband. Throughout the patriarchical period (Abraham through Jacob or Joseph), and even beyond, women are treated as chattel. The examples of how women are treated in the Old Testament are generally negative, Sarai was offered to the Pharaoh to save Abram's fears, Lot offered his daughters to the rapists of Sodom, Leah wasn't marriageable except by deceit, an unnamed Levite gave his concubine to multiple rapists in exchange for his own life, etc. And a good many of the stories in the New Testament are little better, those bringing the woman caught in adultery didn't bother to bring the man, Paul claims a woman is "saved" through childbirth and decent living (what happened to grace?), and even Jesus tried to send away a Canaanite woman who sought relief for her daughter. So, to answer the begged question, indeed the Bible certainly seems pretty sexist, lifting up males as somehow superior to women.
But "why is the Bible sexist?" For many centuries, yea millennia, the Eastern and later Western cultures have been patriarchical, that is they have been male-dominated. It was in this male-dominated society that the scriptures were written, and much of what was written seems to seek legitimization of that stance. It is true that much of what has been written, especially the narrative stories, are reflections of the reality of an early culture; however, the continued justification and advocating of this reality in today's society is untenable. If the Bible truly contains the Word of God, and if it was written in a male-dominated society, then there should be evident traces of God's truth in there.
Thankfully, there is. Even from the creation texts in Genesis it is clear that the ideal is an equality between men and women. God created male and female in God's image (1:27). The prophets say the ideal includes both men and women equally doing the work of God (Joel 2:28). And in the New Testament Paul writes "In Christ there is neither male nor female" (Galatians 3:28).
As segments of our society strive to be freed from its 'isms (racism, ageism, sexism, etc.) the church is slowly adjusting toward the "ideal" in scripture, where men and women are equal in the eyes of God and each other. Knowing the ideal, the history of our Bible, and the society that put in writing those scriptures, will help inform and direct us in our journey towards the biblical picture of paradise.