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Sorry to Regina George (Image: Anna Rawhiti-Connell)
Sorry to Regina George (Image: Anna Rawhiti-Connell)

OPINIONPoliticsMay 7, 2024

Luxon and Mitchell weren’t mixed up, they were using girl maths

Sorry to Regina George (Image: Anna Rawhiti-Connell)
Sorry to Regina George (Image: Anna Rawhiti-Connell)

Where some saw the worst press conference given by the government to date, Anna Rawhiti-Connell recognised girl maths game.

Nicola Willis, recently exasperated by comparisons to Ruth Richardson, said she was “a bit sick of being compared with every female finance minister that’s ever been out there.”

Some think that’s a fair comparison because she is National finance minister presiding over cuts and bare cupboards ahead of the Budget. Others would say it’s a bit lazy and sexist to draw the line just because Willis and Richardson are women. When he was National’s finance minister, Bill English presided over zero budgets and what political opponents called a zero hope budget, a sub zero budget and a back to the future budget.

Willis didn’t need to worry so much about being the victim of lazy, sexist tropes because proponents of another, far more popular gendered money trope were lying dormant in her boss, prime minister Christopher Luxon, and colleague, police minister Mark Mitchell. 

Tfw adding up girl maths (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Some people have described Monday’s post-cabinet press conference as “messy” and the “worst performance at a press conference” given by the government to date, but game recognises game and students of girl maths knew exactly what was going on. “Gurl, I see you,” they said as Mitchell offered up the annual cost of keeping someone in prison instead of clarity about how many prison beds were being added to the national total and how much of the $1.9b spending commitment being announced would be allocated towards the cost of new prison beds.

Girl math is both exalted and reviled. On one hand, it’s an online trend that describes a fun and cutesy way of deploying bamboozling strategies to justify large or unnecessary purchases that we shouldn’t criticise because only girls get it. It’s joyful, actually, and you’re just a bit confused. On the other, it’s a fun and cutesy way for girls to look a bit stupid when justifying large and unnecessary purchases, damaging their future financial selves and flushing confidence in women’s financial acumen down the toilet by tying themselves in nonsensical explanatory knots to scratch an itch.  

Mitchell used a version of the girl maths favourite, sunk cost or the lay buy strategy. That strategy goes like this: “Babes we’ve already spent this much and are actually already getting 600 new prison beds. This is just adding some, maybe 210 or maybe 220, but it wasn’t even me. It was Chris and Kelvin. All this money (can’t tell you how much exactly, look over there, not here) being spent on an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff sounds like a lot (just think about how nice the complete wing at Waikeria will be), but isn’t actually heaps, it’s just completing the set (of places to put people at Waikeria prison). The set is 810 beds, or 820 beds, it’s not a total of 1410 beds, my loyalty card has been punched 9 times, so essentially, this is like free beds if we pay one more time. This is so obvious, I couldn’t be any clearer, why aren’t you geeeeetttttting it?”

When faced with a questioning and increasingly incredulous boyfriend, in this case, the press gallery, girl maths disciples know that the best thing to do for your ride or die is nod along supportively. Luxon did that when questions were being flung at Mitchell, seemingly contradicting what Mitchell was saying. Asked if the 810 beds were in addition to the 600 already being built at Waikeria, Luxon nodded. Yiss kween.

Asked about double bunking, a practice that’s led to allegations of sexual assault, rape and violence, Mitchell doesn’t want there to be any but left the door open for another girl maths favourite, cost per wear, saying he could not rule it out.

No further clarity was found at yesterday’s press conference, so the only-in-case-of-emergencies girl maths glass of producing receipts got smashed. A statement was issued, clarifying that actually, yes, it is 810 more beds on top of the 600 Labour already bought (they already bought them!). Mitchell says he muddied the water, which is actually the point of girl maths. Luxon says the announcement wasn’t rushed and backs his bestie. It was just the spontaneous joy of getting mixed up in the moment.

One of the very best girl maths rules is that any money spent at beauty mega store Sephora doesn’t count because it is an investment in the future. Where experts might tell you eating well (alleviating poverty), sleeping (addressing intergenerational and systematic violence within the home), and drinking water (growing productivity, providing employment and generally lifting the standard of living) will do more for your skin (reducing crime) than 810 Drunk Elephant minis (more prison beds), you don’t have to justify your skincare spend to anyone. It is an investment because it means you won’t have to spend money on fillers or any kind of appearance medicine in the future.

Perfect girl maths, no notes. 

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