The term, weaponized incompetence, is currently trending on TikTok with over 15.6 million views as TikTokers share and react to videos of one partner in a relationship — mostly men — feigning incapability.
A viral TikTok hashtag has re-ignited a long-overdue conversation about "weaponized incompetence" or "strategic incompetence": the phenomenon of shirking responsibilities by pretending not to be able to do basic tasks. The term, which has been coming up in discussions since 2007, is currently trending on TikTok with over 15.6 million views as TikTokers share and react to videos of one partner in a relationship — mostly men — feigning incapability and dumping the bulk of household chores and parenting tasks on the other partner.
The Sneaky Relationship Ploy That's Screwing Over Women https://t.co/1AodabFXK8— Burton (@helbellina) September 8, 2021
From a woman who created a detailed shopping list complete with photos of grocery products, what aisle number they were found in, and a hand-drawn map of the store, to another who shared how she cares for her two young children while her partner "comes downstairs at 11 a.m. after sleeping in, sitting on the toilet for 45 min[utes], shaving and taking a long hot shower," #WeaponizedIncompetence is finally calling attention to the added emotional labor women bear in a relationship. In a video explaining the extremely infuriating practice, Neil Shyminsky, a professor at Cambrian College, admitted to having employed the tactic as a child.
"So the first time that my mom ever asked me to wash the dishes, I told my little brother, that I had a strategy. And that strategy was, that I would do such a bad job that she would never ask me to do it again," he says in the video. "My little brother then went on to tell my mother and that failed horribly, but the point here is that I faking incompetence. Which is almost certainly what the husband in this video (the one about the detailed grocery list) is doing. And there is a name for it: Weaponized incompetence or strategic incompetence. They both describe the same phenomenon where you pretend to be bad at something so that somebody else will do it for you."
"And what this video very effectively and very unfortunately demonstrates is that it creates a lot of extra labor for everyone else. Just stop this sh*t, guys," Shyminsky concludes. TikTok user and motivational speaker Cindy Noir also addressed the topic in a video where she pointed out that the victims of weaponized incompetence are often the ones witnessing it. "The thing that bothers me the most about weaponized incompetence is not necessarily how it impacts the partner or spouse," she says in the video. "Because, while how it impacts the partner or spouse does suck, what I can't help but think about is how does weaponized incompetence the children and the overall family dynamic."
"Because weaponized incompetence shows kids that even though there's two parents in the home, only one is trustworthy and reliable. And it shows kids what all kids have to do to get out of what they don't want to do, as well as what they should allow and do in their future relationships," she adds. Another TikToker, who goes by the username @thatdarnchat on the platform, suggested that victims of weaponized incompetence should "match the energy" of the one faking incapability.
"Do it! Match his energy," she says. "If your partner, the person who also parents your kids or lives in the house with you is doing a shi**y job of parenting or living in the house, just do a shi**y job back. Make sure that you have been clear that you have expectations of partnership in the house but also just take your time. When it's your birthday, do you have to remind him five, six times that your birthday is coming up and then put it on the calendar and then email him stuff you want, and then he still fu**s it up? Stop doing sh*t that they're not doing for you. Match their energy. Take a 45-minute sh*t. Start expecting a thank you for every little thing. Match his energy! If he thinks that's good behavior, then it's good behavior from you too. Do it!"