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Weaponized Incompetence, or Why Men Do Less Housework

I was following an Instagram influencer who posted a series of posts that her husband will not take out the trash without being reminded, and if he does, he will not put a new bag without being reminded, so she often does many of "his" chores so they're done right. This resonated with a lot of followers and led to a discussion of "weaponized incompetence" - or when someone does something wrong on purpose as a punishment. While malicious compliance can be applauded when it's workers standing up to a horrible boss, but when it's in a marriage based on equality, it's just mean. Her husband is playing dumb so he gets out of the work, putting more burden on his wife who already has her own separate job.


Equality is not: women work outside of the home and still do all of the housework. Instead, there needs to be equity in the division of labor with clear communication, instead of passive aggressiveness or unconscious rudeness. Maybe the division of labor involves hiring a weekly cleaner, or one person stays home, or both individuals share equally. No matter how a couple decides to manage housework with outside-of-the-house work, it needs to involve communication and respect. A husband purposefully doing chores wrong to add to the workload of his wife is not respectful, even if it's unconscious.

 

"Single Moms: Less Housework, More Leisure Than Married Moms" by Bella DePaulo, Psychology Today (2016)

Without a spouse in the house, single moms do fewer chores and get more sleep.

Studies show that women who live with extended families also have less housework and more leisure time with the same amount of childcare. What changes is that husbands expect more work from their wives than if the wives didn't have them.


In other words, husbands make messes that they don’t clean up and create expectations that wives should be doing more cleaning and caretaking, while "extended family members seem to extend a hand."

 

Here is comic from Emma that shows weaponized incompetence, referring to it as "mental load" when women must tell men what to exactly do instead of them being equal partners in housework. Link

 
Maybe I thought my wife should respect me simply because I exchanged vows with her. It wouldn’t be the first time I acted entitled. One thing I know for sure is that I never connected putting a dish in the dishwasher with earning my wife’s respect.
She wanted to be my partner, and she wanted me to apply all of my intelligence and learning capabilities to the logistics of managing our lives and household.
She wanted me to figure out all of the things that need done, and devise my own method of task management.
I wish I could remember what seemed so unreasonable to me about that at the time.

It's interesting to see a man reflect that he didn't pull his equal wait in housework and his wife took that a sign of disrespect. I'll answer the question for him - he didn't think he needed to pull his weight because he's seen other men benefit from a life where their wife does mother them and didn't put it together that his wife wanted to be a partner, not his maid, nanny, and sugar-momma.

 

A well-rounded write-up of weaponized incompetence that references ThatDarnChat who helped popularize the term on TikTok:



 

Fairplay by Eve Rodsky (2020)


This is an academic book written for couples on how to share mental load, especially around childcare.


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