The term “weaponised incompetence” has been around for a hot minute. A version of this phrase, “strategic incompetence”, can even be traced back to 2008. In an article from that year, the author Carl Dyke unpacked what strategic incompetence means.
“Strategic incompetence is the art of making yourself more trouble than you’re worth in some area of unwelcome effort,” said Dyke. “This can involve being a painfully slow learner, a bumbler, or an impediment. In each case, the objective is to make it easier for someone else to step in and do the work than to leave it to you.”
Like all terms, strategic incompetence’s meaning splashed and sploshed around as the years went on. Over the years, it eventually evolved into weaponised incompetence. Typically, weaponised incompetence refers to someone feigning ineptitude while performing a domestic task.
For example, if your boyfriend pretends that he doesn’t know how to stack the dishwasher, just so you do the job, that’s a form of weaponised incompetence. He’s faking a childlike folly in order to steal your time and energy.
In recent years, weaponised incompetence has exploded in online use. However, I only heard of the term earlier this month. What’s more, it’s really reshaped my existence.
Weaponised Incompetence: What It Means to Me
I hate folding up laundry. I loathe it. Honestly, I’d rather be thrown from the top of Questacon than ever do laundry again.
So, for longer than I’d like to admit, I never learnt how to fold my laundry well. I’d stumble and stall, and eventually, my fiancée would take over.
Plus, to make matters worse, I’d never think that in-depth about this action. I’d just go back to playing video games.
However, in June of this year, I scrolled past the term “weaponised incompetence” on Reddit. And it really changed my life. It made me realise that my ineptitude was a form of violence. I was dehumanising Izy, treating her like a machine.
Since then, I’ve been folding my own laundry. I’ve also started telling Izy that she can crack her own soft drink cans open. The phrase “weaponised incompetence” has made our relationship better.
Thanks Dyke, for writing about strategic incompetence in 2008. May we all be kind and gentle with each other.