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VALERIE HILL: The body of evidence now favours women.

YEARS ago, whenever my grandmother saw something unpalatable on her television screen she would shuffle uncomfortably on the settee, re-arrange the anti-macassar as a displacement activity and proclaim ``This is a lot of soft.''

Obviously, Eamonn Andrews larking about on `` Crackerjack'' (yes,I am that old) wasn't to everyone's taste. After all, who wouldn't wince watching a middle-aged Irishman trying to do the twist as Peter Glaze sang a cover version of Freddie and the Dreamers' ``We Wear Short Shorts'' ?

However, Nanny Hill also wriggled with embarrassment at anything slightly risque - as all parents do. Remember how daring those Plays for Today were?

If pushed, I think we could all draw Glenda Jackson's naked form from memory, so often has it flashedbeforeour eyes, so to speak.

And I guess every mother in the country shifted uneasily in her Parker Knoll as Alan Bates and Oliver Reed went to work in the nude wrestling scene in Women in Love. There were some very moving things.

But that was then and this is now, the difference being that once shots in the altogether were generally shown much later in the evening, well after the children had gone to bed.

Now we even get barely- clad figures wafting through their power showers in between Coronation Street and Tonight With Trevor MacDonald.

OODNESS me, even that raven-haired primster Joan Bakewellended her series on censorship Tabooby standing in a studio gazing in wonder at a nude man.

And she didn't have a paint brush in her hand either.

There just seems to bealot more naked men on the screen than there used to be. And it's not necessarily a good thing. Malebodies a renot in themselves attractive,as the critic Brad Lucas pointed out: ``Who

are the guys who you would strip naked? Harrison Ford, barely. Jim Carrey, you'd think twice.

Travolta,no way. Who is the guy taking over from Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone? There's no beefcakeleft. It's allSpam.''

Indeed, a point proved by Eddie Izzard in his first television drama ``40", shown this week on Channel 4. Less than perfect,his naked body could be described as reassuringly normal.

Which puts a whole different slant on things gender-wise. For centuries women have had to put up with the physical objectivisation of their bodies.

Too fat, too thin, too flat-chested or too bigbreasted, women's bodies have always been fair game. It's all just a bit of fun love, what are you getting upset about? Only rampant hairy-legged feminists complain about Page 3,don't they?

BUT the story has always been the same. Women strip and men fail tog et agrip.

Perhaps the key factor so far in the great bloke cover-up has not been shocked grannies but male discomfort.

Well,men had better get used to their bodies being put under the same amount of scrutiny as wom-en's. Now that the bits and bobs are on full view, the ladies can start to throw in their two penn'orth.

Becausemalebottoms area dime a dozen these days, with cheek flashing starts such as Martin Kemp in Daddy's Girl and Ewan McGregor in SolidGeometry. Or at least their botty doubles are. What acheek. The male form just doesn't do it for me. I'm with the novelist George Eliot when she says: ``Look at a man in the light of a shell-fish and he will certainly come off worst in terms of beauty and design of his architecture.''

Tom Cruise is beautiful-- but so is a Louis XVI chair. How often God endows a man with a perfect physique and no brains to live up to it: the himbo.

This is the kind of man who, as far as inventions go, thinks Wonderbraand La Perla are up there with the wheel.

Women dream of world peace, a safe environment and eliminating hunger. Himbos dream of being stuck in a lift with Destiny's Child.

And pretty-boy 20-somethings aren't for me either. Under 35, a man has too much to learn, and I don't have time to teach him.

Not that I'm displaying double standards here.

I would expect sensible men to show the same discernment when appraising me. Just because my anatomy has been rearranged sev-eral times by natural disasters, childbirth and some cooking accidents doesn't mean that I can't thrust and parry with the panache of Dorothy Parker.

Except that I would prefer to do it with the lights switched off.
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 11, 2003
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