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Published: Sunday, 3/8/2009

No way to treat a lady

THE ideal way to bring attention to yourself in politics is to propose something really stupid. West Virginia Delegate Jeff Eldridge, a Democrat, showed this past week that he is more than up to the task.

Just in time to mark her 50th birthday, Mr. Eldridge proposed legislation that would ban the sale of Barbie, and similar dolls that promote physical beauty over education and achievement, in the Mountain State.

In the case of Barbie, the rap is only half fair. Yes, she is a large-chested caricature of a female sex object, but her maker, Mattel Inc., has given her roles over the years that do stress brains over bust - astronaut and surgeon, among others.

Of course, a serious issue lurks here, because some girls do grow up to be women with self-esteem issues stemming from failure to live up to an idealized, unrealistic norm for beauty. But they might anyway even if Barbie became an outlaw, given the proliferation of sexist media images.

That concern is offset by another serious issue: the danger posed by a nanny government that thinks it knows better than parents. Go down this road to ban a legal product and who knows what next will be proposed in the name of misplaced high-mindedness - a ban on cheerleaders, perhaps? Fortunately, this bill will die for a thundering lack of support.

If Mr. Eldridge wanted to spark a debate, proposing a ban on Barbie was the worst way to do it. Americans of all political stripes can see that if innocent amusements were ever banned in a fit of well-meaning political zeal, only the Taliban would be pleased.

Leave Barbie alone. It's no way to treat a lady.

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