Stories of weaponized incompetence abound. Men can’t figure out how to do basic things, like laundry, dishes, or cleaning up after themselves. They refuse to see what needs to be done around the house, instead relying on their partners to micromanage them. When they finally attempt a chore, they do it poorly, insisting they’re “just bad at it.”
Men rely on women’s emotional labor to assign tasks and can’t see why it’s a problem.
It begins with how we socialize boys versus girls. Young kids learn their roles early in life, either from parents, teachers, friends, or society, and internalize them.
One boy learned the hard way that his lack of awareness wouldn’t cut it in life.
He Asks Mom What She Needs Help With
The Original Poster (OP) is a 17-year-old boy who wants to at least help. He came to Reddit to find out if he was a jerk for asking his mom what she needed help with.
At first glance, it seems innocuous, even helpful. He wants to help around the house – awesome!
But his story showcases his learned incompetence and can help us all reflect on how we socialize boys versus girls.
Family Hosting a Party
The OP shared that his family was hosting a party. His mother was in the kitchen, cooking, and cleaning, and his sisters were helping.
He wanted to pitch in, so he asked his mom what he could do.
The exasperated mom didn’t have time to hold his hand.
He Can’t Figure Out What To Do
“She kinda signed and told me I have eyes,” he reported. He then shared that he walked aimlessly around for a few minutes, completely oblivious to anything he could do to help, and finally approached his mom again.
“I walked around the house and then came back. I asked again what I can do to help,” he said.
The mom went off, unloading on OP about his lack of awareness.
The mom said at 17; he shouldn’t need to be told what needs to be done, pointing out that his sisters were helping without guidance.
She yelled at him, saying the trash needed to go out and the floors needed to be cleaned, but she shouldn’t have to tell him these things. He’s old enough to see for himself.
OP Lashes Out
At 17, we can forgive someone for not knowing if he takes the admonishment gracefully and learns from the situation.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like OP did that.
Instead, he got angry, lashing out at his mother with hints of misogyny.
“I came back with I am just asking, and I don’t like her tone. It got in an argument, and I left,” he shared.
Was OP Wrong?
OP talked to his sisters, who said he was out of line and needed to apologize. He can’t see it, though, so he came to Reddit for an unbiased opinion of whether he was wrong.
Yes, OP’s Wrong, But He Can Learn
Reddit treated OP with grace. As a teenager, he still has the opportunity to learn and do better.
“You’re young, and you probably haven’t had good male role models who take more of the mental load onto themselves. Your heart was in the right place,” replied one user, offering OP great advice for the future. “When asking “what can I do to help” is on your mind, first take a look around and think to yourself, “If I was wanting this place cleaned up for guests, what would need to get done for me to feel good about the house?”
Socialization of Boys vs. Girls
Another user pointed out that it’s not entirely OP’s fault. His attitude may have spawned from how he was raised and socialized versus his sisters.
“I would like to point out that if mom trained the sisters, she made the choice not to train her son, and she then has no right to get upset because he doesn’t understand what she wants the way the daughters she’s taught from infancy do,” said one user.
Others said there’s no evidence the parents treated the kids differently, but society clearly does, and girls are taught from an early age to help out, while boys are given the freedom to discover themselves.
Everyone is Wrong Here
Reddit had a lively debate about the parent’s role in teaching OP how to help around the house. Some said he should know, while others said his mom should have taught him from an early age and should be glad to have any help offered.
Reddit also debated the ensuing argument. Some said the mother should never lash out the way she did, while others felt she was justified. OP’s response tone policing his mom was seen as harsh by some but demanding respect from others.
Growing Up is Hard
Ultimately, growing up into a functioning adult is challenging for both the child and the parents. Could OP have figured out how to help on his own? Most likely, and it’s a skill he definitely needs to learn.
Should they both learn to communicate more respectfully? Absolutely, but we can offer them both grace because stress can cause people to do and say things they don’t mean.