Writer and content creator Shar Henley (@sharhenley_) is calling out men who rely on the women in their lives to make up for their lack by way of “weaponized incompetence.” Henley makes the case that men who fail to show up for those around them and expect their partners, daughters, etc., to fix everything are, in fact, “garbage people.”
“Fathers relying on their daughter’s labor for Mother’s Day is weaponized incompetence,” reads a caption on her TikTok video that was posted on May 12.
“I just saw a video where a girl was talking about Mother’s Day, and if her stepdad dropped the ball for Mother’s Day, that she would pick up the slack to make sure that her mother had something for her that day,” Henley begins. “And she went on to say that if her own husband didn’t do anything, how her mother would pick up his slack to make sure that she was adequately celebrated.”
‘This is absolute trash behavior and trash human beings have trash behavior’
Henley notes that the woman in this video made an effort to not “put down men.”
“She was trying so hard to be nice about it and I think it’s time that we stop being nice about it, because this is absolute trash behavior and trash human beings have trash behavior,” Henley says. “And what’s crazy is that the majority of women have felt this in one way or another. It’s a very common experience. It’s called weaponized incompetence.”
Weaponized incompetence, Henley explains, is utilized by men to “make themselves seem dumb and mask it for what it really is, which is narcissistic abuse.”
While recognized more commonly today as weaponized incompetence, the term was first known as “strategic incompetence” and was coined by Jared Sandberg in a 2007 article for the Wall Street Journal.
“Strategic incompetence isn’t about having a strategy that fails, but a failure that succeeds,” Sandberg explained. “It almost always works to deflect work one doesn’t want to do — without ever having to admit it.”
Sandberg added, “In all cases, it’s a ritualistic charade. The only thing the person claiming not to understand really doesn’t understand: That the victim ultimately stuck with the work sees through the false incompetence.”
“Kids do it a lot, but in grown-ups it’s a bigger problem,” Emily Mendez, a mental health writer and wellness expert, told Bustle. “It’s a way of communicating that falls into the seducing with guilt category, and ‘You have to help me because I’m too dumb to do it,’ is the scripted message. If you are in a relationship with someone who plays this game, be ready to set a price tag for this behavior.”
‘I want you to know the people that you expect for your care, that their love for you is doing more and more every single year you pull this.’
“It’s calculated, it’s vindictive. And your view of your father or whatever man in your life should absolutely be affected by this,” Henley continues.
Henley addresses men who rely on weaponized incompetence, and warns them that there will be consequences for their actions.
“So if you’re a man who depends on the women in your life to do something for Mother’s Day, I want you to know the people that you expect for your care, that their love for you is doing more and more every single year you pull this,” she says. “And that one day, when you’re really relying on their care when you actually really need it, that check’s not gonna cash.”
‘I’m the oldest daughter. Until the last few years I’ve ALWAYS had to do my dad’s Christmas shopping for my mom.’
The comment section of Henley’s video, which has more than 491,000 views and 86,200 likes in three days of posting, is filled with creators who have men in their lives that manipulate them by way of weaponized incompetence.
“Oldest daughters get the worst end of this,” @katie.g.b wrote, to which Henley replied, “100%.”
“My dad used to give my sister and I like $100 to get whatever our mom wanted, because he couldn’t be bothered thinking of her himself,” @user180622100 revealed.
“My dad would also do that for my mom’s birthday and Christmas. if my mom didn’t have daughters, she wouldn’t get any gifts on any holidays,” @jaymarie_barbie admitted.
“I’m the oldest daughter. Until the last few years I’ve ALWAYS had to do my dad’s Christmas shopping for my mom,” @theaghastghost shared.
The best way to undo a pattern of weaponized incompetence? Well, a first step would be to have a conversation with your significant other or father.
“Maybe the partner doesn’t realize that they are doing this, maybe they don’t feel competent, or it may just be a lack of self-confidence and not necessarily manipulation,” Mendez continued. “Communicate this to your partner and work with them to ensure that tasks are split up evenly.”
Of course, Henley’s video isn’t the first on TikTok to address weaponized incompetence. Unsurprisingly, women on the digital platform have been outspoken about their relationships with men who manipulate them by way of this tactic — from a boyfriend’s refusal to cook to a husband’s deliberately slower speed at making bottles for their baby to a wife’s visual shopping list for her “incompetent” husband.
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