I talk a lot about the invisible workload of women.
I haven’t talked about a nasty little subsection of the invisible workload called: Weaponized Incompetence.
Before I spout off the definition, I want to share a story.
A few weeks ago, while placing an Instacart order for groceries, I asked my husband Scott if he wanted anything specific. (After clear & direct family staff meetings, we evenly split household tasks, and the grocery ordering falls on my list.)
Instead of rattling off the items he wants from the store, Scott replies, “I really want to have chili for dinner this week. That sounds delicious!”
What’s the problem with his statement? Two things:
- The assumption is that I am going to cook this chili for him. For the record, I make incredible chili, he knows this, but I was not making it that week. The “ask” was for the grocery list, not “honey, what can I make you for dinner?”
This brings me to the second issue:
- Instead of listing off the items to make the chili (ground beef, kidney beans, etc.), he just said “chili.” Now I need to do all the extra labor to list the ingredients, check the fridge & cabinets to see what we have, etc.
It’s easy to see how a woman’s workload can triple over a simple task like Instacart.
I went from one task – ordering groceries – to three tasks.
- Ordering groceries.
- Making the list of ingredients for chili.
- Cooking Scott chili.
And I haven’t even gotten to the weaponized incompetence yet!
I told Scott that if he wanted chili, he would need to make it. He sheepishly agreed, feigning excitement, but I just knew he was not going to make chili.
On Sunday, the ingredients were ordered. Monday, no chili. Tuesday, no chili. Wednesday, still no chili.
By the time Thursday rolled around, I asked Scott when he was planning on making the chili he couldn’t wait to eat. And what did he say?
“Honey, I’m not good at making it, but you are. Can’t you do it?”
And THAT, y’all, is weaponized incompetence.
By definition, weaponized incompetence is when one partner fakes (or exaggerates) their inability to perform a task.
It’s the partner who pretends they can’t find the right ingredients at the grocery store.
It’s the partner who claims they can’t fold or iron the laundry because “you do it so much better.”
It’s the partner who won’t complete even the simplest task, claiming “they don’t know how.”
This shifts the labor and burden of responsibility back onto YOU. No wonder women are so burnt out and exhausted.
So what do we do about this?
: Accept that it’s not your problem to solve.
No matter how much your partner protests, you do not have to shoulder the burden of your household. Your partner is just as capable of handling household tasks and responsibilities. You also do not need to perform the educational labor to “teach” your partner how to do it right. Google exists, honey-boo!
: Hold a family staff meeting.
Make a list of tasks together and divide equally. Claim space for yourself and stop giving away all your time, skills, and energy to the invisible workload. This might make your family uncomfortable, but I promise you – they can handle the discomfort.
: Uphold your boundaries.
Be prepared for your partner to test your boundaries. I’ve been married a long time y’all, and Scott Hyatt is still out here testing me. I always keep a clear, concise response in my back pocket. Like when he asked me to make the chili? I answered, “No I’m not making it, and I need you to respect that.”
If we want to smash the patriarchy, we can’t let weaponized incompetence slide.
Setting boundaries can be scary, but boundaries are love. They make your relationship better and, most importantly, allow you to claim back your power, time, and energy.
Let’s get & set those boundaries, boo. You’ll be so happy when you do.
p.s. If you enjoyed this email and you’re a life coach who wants to help women become more confident, brave, and powerful – check out our BARE Coach Training program. We’re enrolling for our next program and space is limited!