So, what are these skirt shunners protesting? There are a lot of specific things, but I think it boils down to two main points: (1) the "family ideal" preached by the church and (2) the fact that priesthood is given only to men. There are a lot of complaints (not able to participate in baby blessings, can't hold "higher" callings, like bishop and stake president) but I think they all mainly fall under these two umbrellas.
The Family Ideal
Those claiming that the church's focus on family belittles women must be going to a different church than I am. The church is very supportive of women. I know of no organization that views women and mothers in such a respectful way. Some argue that by glorifying the role of mothers, the church inadvertently belittles women who are not married stay-at-home moms. Maybe individuals do, in which case individuals are who need to change, not the church. The church has never blamed or belittled women who have to work to support their families or who choose to have a career.
It boils down to faith in the purpose of the family unit. I studied public health, and I feel in every way that the family is the best possible functioning unit of society. There are several things that must be accomplished in a society: humans must be born (some people forget this critical step), they must die, and in between they must make a monetary living to support themselves and do the basic tasks required to survive as a society (eat, clean, care for the helpless). These responsibilities can be divided very neatly between two people.
Both share in producing a new human. But what next? They need to eat, clean, and make a living. Adam Smith was famous for his thoughts on the assembly line. Workers divided and specialized. Why? Because it was much more effective. Two single parents raising a child have to do much more work than two married parents working together raising two children. They synergize. Now, the only tricky part, who is to stay home, and who is to go to work?
Nature (God) has made this decision for us. Women carry baby humans and feed them when they are born. It is much more convenient for women to be the ones at home when they are pregnant, recovering from pregnancy and feeding the baby humans. Men, who don't have this task, are free to go out and make a living that they then share equally with the woman at home. Because they are equals. Neither task is more important. The Savior taught this principle when he taught that, "If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?..They are many members, yet but one body." Neither part is more important. Just different, and both needed for a functioning unit.
The Right to the Priesthood
The right to the priesthood is the other major complaint raised. First, I want to stress that it's a good thing to fight for your rights. It runs very deep in our American society. We know what our ancestors sacrificed to build this country where men and women of all ages and races have rights. The birth of America is a fairy tale that just doesn't happen anywhere else around the world. At the first hint that someone is taking away their rights, people get very fired up and defensive.
There's another aspect to our society though; we are a society with an overload of choices. You can have it your way. This spawns the idea that there is a "best choice" that can bring ultimate happiness. If only you can achieve the best, then you will be happy. Some women don't feel ultimately fulfilled and satisfied with their church lives and perhaps feel that if another aspect were added, like priesthood or a new calling, they would be happier. This is a dangerous attitude. Not because what people are seeking for are necessarily evil things, but because the idea is flawed. It supports the thought that happiness and fulfillment are brought on by external circumstances, rather than internal validation. Perhaps that is what the Savior was trying to teach when he told a rich young man to "sell all that he had."
Let's think about how the priesthood is used. The priesthood is the literal power of God on earth. Worthy priesthood bearers can bless people, heal the sick, administer and have stewardship over families and wards. However, a priesthood bearer cannot bless or preside over himself. Men and women alike call upon the powers of the priesthood through a worthy priesthood bearer with the proper stewardship.
If a woman was sick, she would call on her home teachers/family members to give her a blessing. A man would do the same. If a girl wanted a back-to-school blessing, she would call on her home teachers/family members to give her that blessing. A boy would do the same. Men and women both answer to their steward, all the way up to the prophet, who answers directly to the Lord. The Lord is in charge. Not men. Men and women both participate in the priesthood ordinances of baptism, endowment, and marriage. Women participate fully in the blessings of the priesthood. They are not dependent on priesthood bearers, rather the priesthood fosters interdependence and community among all people- men and women. A desire to turn that interdependence into independence is a social regression (dependence, independence, interdependence), not progress.
Take Home Message
Some women will wear pants on Sunday, and that's okay. If women in my ward wear pants on Sunday, I won't snidely direct them to this post. It's good to question your faith and beliefs. I encourage it, because I feel that is the best way to get to the truth. That's how I find truth and have developed a testimony. Prophets encourage us to do that. I just hope that all of us striving to be saints will refuse to get caught up in the heat and emotion of protest, and seriously pray about what we can do to perfect the church where we can--in ourselves and those over whom we have stewardship. I also hope we can remember one truth I learned years ago that has forever put my qualms on the matter to rest: God is not sexist. He's perfect.
The Family Proclamation