The perils of being a woman who’s just asking to be left alone

I kept reading essays about what Mollie Tibbetts represents. Some commentators say she represents the need to build a border wall, and some say she represents the threat of toxic masculinity, and I’ve been feeling too useless to say anything, because I imagine that to her family, what Mollie represents is a person they loved who is never coming back.

But all this week, I couldn’t stop thinking about the things that have happened to the women I know. And the times they have carefully weighed the consequences of asking to be left alone.

A woman I know was in a bar with friends when a man asked if he could buy her a drink. She declined, and he angrily called her a “bitch.” She was alarmed, but she was also confused. Was she rude for rejecting him? Had she done something wrong?

A woman I know in New York once ignored a passerby’s order for her to “smile,” so he reached out and grabbed her crotch; she was 12.