By: Alex Evans
I dedicate this article to my little brother, sophomore Storm Evans, for instilling an abhorrence for weaponized incompetence in me. As children, the two of us received instructions to clean up various messes or complete certain tasks in exchange for much-valued computer or cartoon-watching time. Without fail, he would perform said task incredibly poorly or slowly, enraging me with his incompetence. His failures then incentivized me to complete the task on his behalf to prove how much easier it was to me, the superior being.
In these moments, I thought I owned him, shattering his confidence with my amazing ability to do tasks better than he could. Unfortunately this competitive mindset blinded me from the tactic he employed: weaponized incompetence. He followed this term’s definition perfectly, which, according to Mind Body Green, is “a behavior pattern where one [partner] pretends to be bad at simple tasks to get out of shared responsibilities.” After reflecting, I now understand that another reason for my frustration with my brother is the inability for all individuals to employ this tactic. Weaponized incompetence is a skill more available to men, and is disproportionately used to harm non-men.
Weaponized incompetence only works for those who are expected by societal sterotypes to perform a certain way. For my brother, he is younger, and a boy. Both traits make him — stereotypically — less apt to complete the dishes properly. Every time he failed, my mother had to reteach and guide him again and again, making it more convenient to pawn the responsibility onto me. He succeeded in employing weaponized incompetence.
For those who are not men, this tactic could work, but only while simultaneously affirming patriarchal gender roles. In other words, if any individual other than a man attempts to employ this tactic, it is one step forward but two steps backward. The HuffPost gives the example of a wife explaining to her husband that she is “not good with numbers” to escape managing finances. It may work, but is only an example to generations to come of women’s prolonged inferiority to men. The man still ends up receiving praise.
This is not an issue of “boy versus girl,” or just me getting upset about chores. It is a patriarchal system that allows weaponized incompetence to remain available to male individuals. It is up to parents to treat their children equally with the same expectations to even the playing field, and it is up to men to understand the responsibility of privilege and behave fairly, rather than pawning their dirty work onto others.
[Sources: Mind Body Green, HuffPost]