In short, before the fall of man the divine order for rule, for dominion, for leadership was entirely equal between the first man and woman. Theirs was an untainted joint-rule over all the earth and the affairs assigned to them by the Creator. At the creation there was no submission of the woman to the man enjoined - only the submission of both to their Maker, and to His divine order for the fulfilling of their destiny. ("Egalitarian" is the term often used by those who hold that men and women have equal roles, and this original order was exactly that. But please note: I am not arguing for the "egalitarianism" being demanded by evangelical feminists, as the following paragraphs will attest).
A new order. In contrast to the male/female partnership in dominion before the fall of man, a new order was decreed by Father GOD after the fall - an order which both assigns the man's role to lead and, at the same time, asserts that the woman will likely chafe under the new order. Genesis 3:16 not only introduces the woman to the fact that childbirth with travail will now be hers (something her pre-fall condition might have averted), but another pre-fall condition is altered by the words "your desire shall be toward your husband."
This phrase has been subjected to many interpretations, but too seldom the correct one. The Hebrew verb teshuquah essentially asserts a quest for dominance: "You will want to overcome or over-rule your husband-to lead him." It's an obvious reference to the fact that because she had held an equal role, GOD's new post-fall edict would be a tough pill for her to swallow. And understandably so, given that an inner sense of equality in dominion was created in both the male and female of the human species (not to mention the fact that both have been given equal creative potential and skills for leading to this day).
But GOD was establishing a new order, intended for the redemptive process He was setting in place - in contrast to the originally arranged creative order which had been violated and rendered dysfunctional. In other words, the man's leading role was not by virtue of creation, but rather was instituted as a provisional part of the redemptive process GOD set forth.
If one holds that the male is to lead because he is preferred by sovereign choice, the obvious question is: "What is the desired, ultimate objective in this structure of things - benevolent mastery?" Truthfully answered, that can be the only possible conclusion if the original order puts the man over the woman. And such a proposition carries with it a whole trainload of problems, not only where the concept is misapplied, but in the limits it reaches when it finally arrives at its "best case" goal: half the race is kept at a slightly inferior place.
In contrast, if GOD assigned the male's leadership role after the fall as a means of setting forth a redemptive policy, a much higher goal is plainly in view. The target of GOD's postfall assignment of the man's responsibility to lead (not with privileged power or authority, but in the likeness of Christ, who came not to master but to serve) is clearly the recovery of the original order - of both male and female being restored to equal dominion.[if Ps66:12 into 91:1 or Gen3:24 Rom14:17.]
In my small book, A Man's Starting Place (Living Way, 1992), I expand on this concept which I believe is not only fully scriptural, but ends in accomplishing what we would expect GOD's redemptive operations to always achieve: the fullest dignity and nobility for every human being who opens to this program of full salvation [1Thes 5:23] through His Son, Jesus Christ.
An awakening. This month I'll be one of nearly 50,000 men who will meet for the National Men's Conference in Boulder, Colorado, July 30-31. I'll not only be there because I'm privileged to be asked to address this incredible gathering, but because I like the fundamental premise inherent in the name of the organization calling the men together: "Promise Keepers."
I'm not suggesting that Promise Keepers has made a specific statement like mine in this article, but it is clear that their focus is in the spirit of the distinction I've drawn here. They are targeting the cultivation of a generation of men who keep their commitments, who serve their purpose under Christ and who see their leadership role as servants and not as masters.