Sunday, February 11, 2007

A question for Professor Simon Baron-Cohen

Director of the Autism Research Centre,
University of Cambridge

Maybe this isn’t news to you at all, but I’ve only recently found out that the man who is considered to be Australia’s most renowned living poet, Les Murray, has claimed a number of times to have some degree of Asperger syndrome in interviews in the last couple of years. After reading about Murray I’m sure he’s right. Apparently one of his five offspring has autism.

My question to you is; how does your female empathizer brain and male systemizer brain theory explain Murray’s harrowing experiences of bullying in high school? He was apparently particularly psychologically bullied by his female age peers, which appears to wildly contradict the stereotype of inherent kind empathy in girls which you depicted with the character "Hannah" on pages 18 to 21 of your popular psychology book The Essential Difference. This is how Murray’s school bullying is described in a recent press article:

When he turned 16, Murray went to Taree High School where he experienced bullying and emotional humiliation at the hands of fellow students of such callousness that it has haunted him all his life. For two years he was addressed constantly by cruel nicknames. “The sexual fool was how (the) girls loved to see Murray,” Professor Alexander writes in Les Murray: A Life in Progress. “I used to have strings of 16-year-old girls hanging after me screaming with laughter and provoking me into making more of a fool of myself,” Murray recalled.

Murray is a long-time sufferer of clinical depression, not surprisingly.

Dear professor, are you sure that you know what dear little Hannah gets up to when she is at school?


Baird, Julia (2006) Les Murray: the poet who helped save the Snowy. Sunday Profile. ABC Local Radio. June 4, 2006.

Moran, Rod (2007) Murray’s troubled waters run deep. The West Australian. Weekend Extra, page 4, February 10, 2007.

Potts, Robert (2004) The voice of the outback. The Guardian. May 15, 2004.,12084,1216273,00.html

Wootten, William (2006) Salt, land and tears. The Guardian. October 21, 2006.,,1927616,00.html