Democratic candidate compares Florida to ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ in attack on DeSantis

·3 min read

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.

During a speech at a fundraiser, the running mate to Charlie Crist on the gubernatorial ticket took a swipe at current Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez by comparing them to characters in the 1985 Margaret Atwood novel.

“We can’t allow Commander DeSantis and Aunt Jeanette to continue down the path of turning Florida into a mini Gilead,” she said, in reference to the fictitious theocratic Republic of Gilead that overthrows the US government and subjugates women.

In Gilead, women known as “Handmaids” are raped and forced to produce children for the male ruling class, the “Commanders” and are trained and indoctrinated by “Aunts”. They are depicted as being dressed in bright red robes with white headdresses.

No women are allowed to read, write or own property, and there is strict censorship. Other classes of women in Gilead-lore include the commanders’ privileged wives; domestic workers called Marthas; econowives married to lower-level men; unwomen who are interred in labour camps; and sex workers called Jezebels.

Speaking with Insider after the event, Ms Hernández-Mats said: “Obviously a lot of people have read The Handmaid’s Tale, and I think that we’re going backwards just like that.”

She compared laws passed under Governor DeSantis to the strict doctrine of Gilead, including a 15-week abortion ban without exceptions for rape and incest, a push to redraw the state’s congressional map, and the state’s decision to reject certain math textbooks that didn’t comply with a new education law restricting the way race is discussed in classrooms.

Karla Hernandez-Mats (Miami Herald/screen grab)
Karla Hernandez-Mats (Miami Herald/screen grab)

“All these things, unfortunately, sound like they’re fictitious and fantastical and that it would never happen — because that’s what I thought when I read that book — and here we are in 2022,” she told Insider.

“We’re seeing a governor that acts like a dictator, that is authoritarian, and that is taking away and depriving our freedom, which is exactly what happened in Gilead.”

Despite being published more than 35 years ago, The Handmaid’s Tale reentered the bestseller list during the presidency of Donald Trump and became a shorthand critique of his administration’s actions.

Protestors dressed as Handmaids gathered outside the US Capitol during the Senate confirmations of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court over fears of Roe v Wade being overturned — which then came to pass. There were similar protests when Republicans attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Shortly after Mr Trump took office, a TV adaptation of the book premiered on the streaming platform Hulu. Starring Elizabeth Moss, it has since won numerous awards and its fifth season begins next week.

Production of the series was already underway before Mr Trump won the 2016 election.

According to polls collated by FiveThirtyEight Mr DeSantis is currently leading in the gubernatorial race by between three and five percentage points.