If you’ve been on TikTok in recent weeks, chances are that you’ve seen the term ‘weaponised incompetence’ (or weaponized) floating around a fair amount. Those of you who aren’t on TikTok have probably seen mentions of it plastered across other social media platforms or maybe you’ve seen the phenomenon covered by outlets like our pals at Refinery29.
The point here is that weaponised incompetence is gaining a lot of attention right now, purely because of how damn common the experience appears to be. At the time of publishing, #weaponizedincompetence has 21.8M views on TikTok, and that will only continue to grow.
So, let’s take a look into what everyone is talking about when they refer to ‘weaponised incompetence’ and how it impacts the lives of so many people (mostly women).
What is weaponised incompetence?
Psychotherapist and writer, Emily Mendez, M.S. EdS, recently told Bustle that “Weaponized incompetence refers to pretending not to know how to do something when you do really know how to do it.”
“In a relationship, it could be one person saying something like, ‘I don’t know how to do that. So, I’ll let you take care of it.’ This can be seen as a manipulation tactic,” she said.
Examples on TikTok range from half-arsed parenting, to poorly completed tasks around the house, to weak attempts at taking on new tasks at work.
How to recognise the signs
The general idea is that the task at hand is usually pretty straightforward (think cooking dinner or dressing a child). You’re not asking someone to write a thesis, here.
You’ll usually be able to tell if something is an example of weaponised incompetence because of how unlikely it is that someone is genuinely unable to do the task correctly.
Irrespective of how simple the task is, however, this person will do such a ridiculously poor job of it that their partner or colleague or friend or family member will eventually respond with, “I’ll just do it myself”.
The general opinion online is that using this tactic is not only manipulative and disrespectful, it also very quickly leads to a large serving of resentment headed in the direction of the conveniently incompetent party. Relationships can easily break down because of it.
It’s also important to note that, most of the time, mothers are the ones being lumped with the additional mental load as a result of this intentional incompetence. Because most of the examples we’re seeing pop up are for domestic labour, which we know is largely completed by women and mothers.
If you want to see this play out in front of your eyes, check out some of the more popular videos on TikTok demonstrating weaponised incompetence below.
Prepare to roll your eyes ad infinitum.
As R29 shares, TikTok user and motivational speaker Cindy Noir explained the impact of the trend particularly well.
“What I can’t help but think about is how does weaponized incompetence impact the kids and the overall family dynamic?” Noir said.
“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.”
So, yeah. Don’t do it, and do your best to call out this kind of behaviour when you can.