With more frequent legislation robbing women of their right to control their bodies and their lives, and forbidding the discussion of topics such as race, gender, and sexuality, it is no surprise that the governing of the nation and specifically the state of Florida can be compared to that of a dystopian society.
Karla Hernández-Mats, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in Florida, has said living in the state is starting to feel like the dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale. “We’re seeing a governor that acts like a dictator, that is authoritarian, and that is taking away and depriving our freedom.”
Despite being published more than 35 years ago, The Handmaid’s Tale re-entered the bestseller list during the presidency of Donald Trump and has since become a shorthand critique of the recent legislative decisions and dictator-esque actions of Florida’s and other states’ governors.
During the Senate confirmations of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, protesters dressed as Handmaids in reference to the novel, gathered outside the US Capitol over fears of the overturn of Roe v. Wade. There were similar protests when Republicans attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Ironically enough, The Handmaid’s Tale, was one of the many books targeted for its sexual or otherwise deemed “school-inappropriate” content. Among the many other books banned from Florida curriculums a “disproportionate” number of bans focused on stories relating to LGBTQ+ people and people of color.”
Just within Florida schools in the 2021-22 school year, PEN America , an organization that advocates for free expression, documented 565 books banned. In 2023, to comply with new laws, some Florida schools were directed to empty libraries and cover classroom bookshelves. Teachers in Manatee County and Duval County were told they had to have each book in their classrooms reviewed to determine if the books were fit for the classrooms. A total of 175 books were banned in the state of Florida alone.
The bans on books extend beyond supplemental resources and include mandatory textbooks. The Florida Department of Education recently rejected 54 of 132 submitted math textbooks from being used next school year, providing reasoning that the textbooks have “references to critical race theory” or “the unsolicited addition of Social Emotional Learning in mathematics.”
We’ve never seen anything like this, in terms of concerted attacks on public education in a single state, and it’s really devastating to see these bills become law.
— Jeremy Young, Senior Manager of free expression and education at PEN America
Most complaints center on the fact that the story is “controversial” or “unsuitable” for children because the penguin parents are both male.