What does it mean in I Corinthians 14, when Paul tells women to be "silent in congregation," especially in light of his words just a few chapters earlier, in I Corinthians 11, where he not only "allows" women to pray and preach and teach but tells them how to do so?
Here and in I Timothy 2 ("I permit no woman to teach a man ... she is to keep silent"), Paul is telling first the men and then the women too, to take it down a couple of notches. Paul writes that the men/husbands should not raise up hands to hit but raise up "holy hands" to pray. Then he goes on to speak to the women. Scholarship knows that some were spending literally four hours a day in the salon chair and Paul is advising them to "let go and let God" a little in a beauty department.
Finally Paul writes that women/wives are not to "teach" their men (or anyone else's man) with a frying pan. They are not to bludgeon their husbands or anyone else's husband with sharp implements, tongue lashings or otherwise, but rather, in light of the Lord Jesus who is the redeemer of the world and even their husbands; take it a little easier!
Likewise in I Corinthians, Paul speaks to men who were speaking in tongues aloud in church and tells them to have an interpreter and if not to keep silent. And in the same way to the women, who are declaring in the loudest possible voice that they are and should be "first" in all things, saying that the "word of God originated with them," that men should also have a place to speak, a window of opportunity in remembrance of salvation history.
In Exodus 14 for instance, on the near side of the Red Sea, the horrified men confronted Moses, "Were there no graves in Egypt that you took us here to die?" And then also, in Acts, when the people in Jerusalem hear Peter's sermon and are cut to the heart, it was the men who asked, "What must we do?" In other words, in situations of great horror or great moment, the women, if they are not speaking a word from the Lord, should take a step back, remembering Israel and the role men have been given.
In Corinth, women were insisting on taking the lead in all things, all the time and everywhere and Paul is saying, in certain specific times, to hang back for a moment! In light of Eve, Abigail, Miriam, the wise woman of Tekoa, Deborah, Mary and Mary Magdalene, to name just a few, we see that women have been preachers, teachers, judges and theological students throughout the Bible. How much more in the early church after the resurrection of Jesus and the sending of the Holy Spirit? It is only because we have been cut off from the Old Testament and indeed, even at times the New Testament, that we ever imagined Paul to be saying something different; his message is plain in light of the Biblical witness.