The term, weaponized incompetence, has been a popular one thanks to social media platforms like TikTok, where content about relationships, sex, and mental health is plentiful and easily accessible. Posts from people about recognizing weaponized incompetence in their own relationships were bringing in more than a million views and comment sections were filled to the brim with others agreeing and sharing their own experiences with domestic labor inequality.
For many, a common question around weaponized incompetence is “How do I know if my partner is really incompetent, or just being manipulative in order to avoid household chores?” This podcast featuring Dr. Kate Balestrieri and Artimus Wolz discusses the nuances of weaponized incompetence and how to understand if your partner is actually incompetent or just coming across that way to get out of undesirable housework.
What is Weaponized Incompetence, Anyway?
Weaponized Incompetence refers to a term that describes an unequal distribution of domestic labor, usually under the pretense that one partner can’t, will do a poor job, or doesn’t know how to complete a task or chore around the house, forcing the other partner to pick up the slack, and ultimately doing additional labor. While weaponized incompetence can occur in all types of relationships, women in heterosexual relationships seem to be the most impacted by this type of relationship dynamic.
This dynamic is likely because of traditional, nuclear family gender roles that are often connected with monogamous, heterosexual relationships. Many couples fall into this dynamic unconsciously as unequal labor might have been the norm growing up and they may have potentially received messaging that domestic labor is a responsibility of one partner (typically a woman/mother) over the other.
Some examples of weaponized incompetence might be a partner that “keeps forgetting” to take out the trash despite being asked several times, someone refusing to do the dishes because “they don’t know how to do it well,” or assuming most or all child care obligations fall on one partner. This can become extremely frustrating and a common conflict for many couples, especially for the partner who is doing a majority of the work and would prefer a more equal system.
How to Tell If It’s Real Incompetence or Manipulation
A question on many people’s minds when it comes to weaponized incompetence (also often called strategic incompetence) is “How can I tell if my partner really can’t do something or if they are using incompetence as a form of manipulation to evade household labor?” Partners often want to give their partner the benefit of the doubt and not assume strategic incompetence is present in their relationship, but it can be tricky if one partner isn’t willing to be honest and accountable.
One way you might be able to tell if your partner is really incompetent is to assess what lengths they’ve gone to, to learn how to do the task or get better at it. For example, have they googled or watched any YouTube videos on the task? Have they asked for clarity on how they can be more supportive? Have they tried to communicate with you why they feel they are struggling with the task and expressed interested in working together to find a solution? These are questions you can start to ask yourself when it comes to understanding your partner’s motivation around not pulling their own weight.
If your partner is using weaponized incompetence as a manipulation tactic, there will likely be little to no evidence that they are doing anything to become more competent in the areas of household labor in which they are lacking. A partner who is using weaponized incompetence as manipulation might shift the blame onto the other partner or accuse them of “nagging,” they might put zero effort into learning about how they can get better at the task, and they might continue to avoid the task, believing that their partner will eventually give in and just do the task themselves.
Setting Boundaries with Weaponized Incompetence
Everyone deserves to advocate for their needs in relationship, and that includes needs around domestic labor. If equality is something you value in a relationship, setting boundaries in order to advocate for that equality might be needed.
Setting boundaries requires strong communication and willingness to work with each other. If you’re dealing with weaponized incompetence in your relationship, it might be time to call your partner in and create a system that works for everyone. This might take compromising, negotiating, and empathy, but if you and your partner can find common ground, you will likely start to see improvements to the quality of the relationship.
For many couples, change doesn’t happen overnight, but it you notice little to no change in your partner’s participation, it’s not inappropriate to address it. If you and your partner came to an agreement about how they can step up, reminding them of that agreement might be needed as a means of holding them accountable. If you need extra support, there’s no shame in working with a marriage and family therapist to help you outline your boundaries and collaborate on the best ways you and your partner can work to close the gap on household labor.
In this episode: Artimus Wolz is a film school grad and Digital creator. He is an artist and a musician and created tik tok videos that have received wide spread attention. His Tik Tok followers are over 670,000 and his likes have reached 13 million. Artimus’ hit, Incompedance was his comedic but insightful video pointing out the male tendency of Incompetence in the avoidance and manipulation of feigned incompetence of daily chores and beyond.
This is the basis of the discussion between Artimus and Dr. Kate: The phenomenon of Weaponized Incompetence and how good men are at it. Wolz picks up on social ilks and is honest and vulnerable in his videos. In the podcast, he speaks of a tense relationship with his father and his video Eggshells talks about that and going home for the holidays. Raw but comedic, insightful and entertaining, his lyrics hit home on many subjects as does the conversation between Dr. Kate and Artimus.
In this podcast we learn more about who Artimus is, how he takes real vulnerabilities, anger and comedy and mix It up in a number of great videos. We also hear how psychologically, Incompedance may have shone a light on weaponized incompetence and hopefully caused some changes.
Based on the high numbers of followers for his videos, Artimus had put them along with new ones together in an album called Chaos. This includes Incompedance, Eggshells, Saddy Daddy-o, Leave her Alone and more.
Links for Artimus: