Inside the exhibition Women Hold Up Half the Sky, one wall of the gallery is covered with dots—20,000 of them, give or take a few. Each one measures about an inch in diameter, a thin blue line rounding an empty center. Over time visitors have filled in the white circles, transforming the mostly blank space into a field of tenderly hand-colored dots.
The 20,000 are meant to represent, if only in part, the sixty million girls and women estimated to be “missing” worldwide because of sex-selective abortion, female infanticide, or gender-specific abuse or neglect—or what an article in The Economist calls “gendercide” (the article also increases the estimate to 100 million). It’s a startling, sobering figure. While standing before this giant display of thousands upon thousands of dots, visitors are invited to take a moment and color in a circle in honor of a life lost.
A young middle-schooler, B.J. Dare, who toured the exhibition as part of a recent school field trip, colored in more than a dot or two, then chose to share the experience with online reading and writing community Figment. We stumbled upon it late last week, and we were moved. Here’s an excerpt of B.J.’s composition “A Trip to the Skirball”:
I colored and colored and colored and colored. Every dot was a new color, some were multi-color. For each dot, I felt like I was trying to help, or give support, somehow.
When we left I was kind of stunned. While the other kids were talking about what was happening at school, changed but wanting to temporarily forget about anything really important, I sat there in silence, thinking.
I thought about the women who tried so hard and suffered so much. I thought about the dots. And I thought about how many I would have colored, given the time. Maybe a thousand. Supporting a thousand.
And that was the end.
On a warm Wednesday afternoon in March, my class and I came back from the Skirball, changed.
Thanks, B.J., for coming to visit and leaving your mark on the exhibition. It’s on view until May 20. We invite everyone to help us remember the 20,000 representing the sixty million.