The Greek word that was translated “woman” here is “GUNE,” and it means “a woman, specially, a wife” (Strong’s Concordance). This word was translated “wife” or “wives” 92 times in the New Testament. He was saying that in the marriage relationship, the husband is the head of the wife.
Paul was using this example to clarify his statement about the degree to which people should submit to him (1 Corinthians 11:1). He was making sure that they understood that the wives should submit to their own husbands. He was not any woman’s head. That was the role of her husband. In all of Paul’s teachings about a woman’s role of submission (Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18; 1 Timothy 2:11-12; 1 Peter 3:1, and 5-6), he was speaking only of a wife submitting to her own husband. It is not scriptural to teach that women in general are to submit to men in general.
Paul had just told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 11:1 to be followers of him. He used himself as an example and urged compliance with his instructions because of his authority as their apostle (1 Corinthians 9:1). Here, he praised them for following his ordinances and began to point them back to Christ.
Because he had invoked his apostolic authority and urged the people to follow him, he was concerned that some might place their commitment to him above their commitment to Christ. To avoid this misunderstanding, Paul stressed that the head of every man is Christ. He was not teaching blind obedience to himself. They were to follow Paul only to the degree that he followed Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Anyone who preaches total obedience to any leader other than Jesus is not following Paul’s teaching and will always lead people into error and bondage.
Paul’s point was that Christ always has ultimate authority in the life of the believer. To make this point, Paul used as an illustration a custom that was prevalent in his day (1 Corinthians 11:4). Sadly, many people have focused on the illustration and forgotten the point. Paul was not teaching on the proper length of hair and the veiling of women. He was illustrating that Christ is the head of the church.