I think this needs to get added to derailing for dummies:

"No one's forcing you/them to do anything!"

I keep seeing this phrase used everywhere on the internet: on message boards I've been going to since I was 16, on Gawker media sites, on the bloody New York Times. This is a ridiculously stupid argument, and I'd say that my tolerance for it drops exponentially as I get older.

In the world we live in, it's very easy to think that no one is "forced" to do anything. In trying to imagine what the idea of "forcing" someone to do something looks like, I'm sure most people imagine extreme situations with weapons being wielded by the powerful to force the weak into undesirable situations. This alone is quite silly because while few people in the US are being forced to work in such situations (and they are out there, tragically), there are plenty of people who are definitely forced by their own economic circumstances to make decisions between "bad" and "worse,"where bad is a horrible job and worse is homelessness or destitution.

This attitude appalled me further when I read about the factory collapse in Bangladesh, which cued all these armchair policy writers to come out and say that "no one forced those workers to go into the building if they thought it was unsafe." I definitely have to object on that one as the workers expressed their trepidation at entering the building, and they were met with threats of pay cuts or job loss. That is coercion (which is effectively the same action as forcing someone to do something)!

I see this attitude that a person cannot be forced to do something he or she doesn't want to do reflected in our old foe, rape culture. This attitude permeates and colors the thought process that leads to victim blaming, especially as we get into the idea that physical violence is the only kind of "force" used to modify others' behavior.


What is force? It's being threatened with immediate, difficult changes to your life that are rarely easily overcome, except by exceptional social and economic capital. How much of it do you think a factory worker in Bangladesh has by him or herself?