A woman sparked a viral conversation in Reddit’s “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) forum after sharing a recent incident involving her brother-in-law at an early Thanksgiving dinner in which an argument led her to call him incompetent.
The anonymous Redditor, known only as u/tammyloren, posted her situation on Monday and has already received more than 20,000 votes and 1,400 comments, many of which supported her for standing up to her brother-in-law.
In the post, u/tammyloren explained that her sister, 32, has a husband, 38, who is the “poster child of weaponized incompetence.” The woman explained that her sister and husband have four children and are pregnant with a fifth.
Weaponized incompetence, a term originally coined in 2007 but which gained popularity recently on TikTok, refers to a partner purposely doing something poorly or saying they are unable to so their partner takes responsibility for the task.
For many, this type of behavior is a manipulation tactic that allows a partner to get out of undesirable chores and routines. Emily Mendez, a psychotherapist and mental health writer, told Bustle that by acting like they are unable to complete a mundane task, the other partner tends to take responsibility for the task.
“Weaponized incompetence refers to pretending not to know how to do something when you do really know how to do it,” Mendez told Bustle. “In a relationship, it could be one person saying something like, ‘I don’t know how to do that. So, I’ll let you take care of it.’ This can be seen as a manipulation tactic.”
In the now-viral Reddit post, the woman explained that her sister works a full-time job and also takes care of all the domestic work around the house including cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the children while her husband spends some time with the children before he plays his video games and goes to bed.
The post said that u/tammyloren and her husband actually stayed with her sister and her family for about six weeks while they underwent a home renovation. She said that while they were there they helped with some of the household chores and assisted with the children. She said her sister was visibly happier from the help.
The woman also explained in the post that her brother-in-law only acknowledges the fact he is a parent when his family is around and then he acts like a “god fearing, hard working father of five.” She also explained that he was the one who wanted more children even though her sister wanted to stop after the last child but he allegedly said he wanted another boy.
The woman said her sister’s oldest child started noticing the situation and attempted to help but her sister rejected. She also explained that she has never gotten along with her brother-in-law because he has acted the same way since their second child was born.
She said she’s talked to her sister about leaving him but she said she didn’t want her children to go through the trauma of a divorce.
“Cut to this past weekend, her and her husband threw a pre thanksgiving pot luck where our entire family + his was there,” the post said. “I stayed with my sister a few days before because I knew he wouldn’t help.”
The post explained that at dinner, u/tammyloren mentioned that she and her husband were trying for a baby and her BIL made a comment to her husband about how hard fatherhood is.
“I snapped and said ‘like you would know,'” the post said. “He looked taken aback and asked me what I meant and I unloaded on him, calling him a pathetic excuse for a man who makes my 8 months pregnant sister do everything for their family.”
She said she went off on her brother-in-law for about 10 minutes and he just sat quietly in his seat. She then said she left the dinner early.
“Last night my sister called me and thanked me for standing up for her and told me she appreciated me,” the post ended. “Although today I got a very nasty text from him telling me I’m a terrible person and because I ‘lied’ in front of his family his mom is angry at him and is moving in with them to help her out and I’ve made him the laughing stalk of his family. He certainly thinks so, but AITA for doing this?”
More than 1,400 people flocked to the comments section of her post, many in support of her actions. Some were quick to mention that the woman’s brother-in-law was probably raised not to do any domestic work and that his parents are probably somewhat to blame.
“It makes me happy to see so many feminists here to tell me to stop enabling misogynistic ideologies that always blame women for men’s failings,” one user commented. “Behind every incompetent man is a mother who did everything for him!”
Another user mentioned the fact that the woman claimed her BIL didn’t start acting like this until the second baby and he might not have been raised that way.
“Perhaps his mother taught him how to be self-sufficient which is why this is weaponized incompetence,” one user said. “She said in the post that he started acting like this after the birth of the first kid. It seems like he realized at that point that if he did things wrong his wife would do it for him, which turned into him doing nothing at all.”
Many in the comments also mentioned that the underlying misogyny of expecting the woman to take care of the domestic chores was “sexist bullsh*t” and that the BIL was old enough to know that.
According to Mendez, weaponized incompetence, also known as strategic incompetence, creates an imbalance in a relationship that might have otherwise been healthy. The power imbalance puts pressure on one half of the relationship and can also cause passive-aggressive behaviors which can harm the relationship even further.
Mendez recommended that couples have a serious conversation about their partner’s behavior in an attempt to stop them from utilizing the manipulation tactic as well as to set boundaries in the relationship.
She told Bustle that sometimes the partner doesn’t realize what they are doing is harmful and sometimes can be a lack of self-confidence and “not necessarily manipulation.”