The Did This Really Happen?! project: What can we learn from drawing everyday sexism in academia?

Does everyday sexism exist within the scientific community? The answer is unfortunately yes, still. What can we do to overcome this persisting problem? Well, the Did this really happen?! team, which Maëlis Arnould, Postdoctoral researcher at CEED, is part of, has decided to increase awareness about sexist situations encountered by female scientists. How? By drawing comic strips based on real anonymous experiences which describe such behaviours to denounce them.

In a recently published open-access article in Advances in Geosciences (Bocher et al., 2020), the Did this really happen?! (DTRH) team reflects on the comics they have received and published so far on their website They provide an analysis of the main stereotypes encountered in the comics and describe how they engage with the scientific community at large on this topic. Maëlis explains more about the project and publication here on the CEED Blog. 

Image may contain: Text, Cartoon, Line art, Illustration.
Figure 1: Front cover of the booklet of comics released with the article (downloadable here). All comics are hand-drawn by Alice Adenis – distributed under the Creative Common Attribution 4.0 License.

It all started in 2016, when the seven members of the ERC-funded Augury team based at the University of Lyon, France, realized that they had all encountered sexist remarks about the fact that their team was composed of only one man and six women. After a few discussions with their local university diversity and equality representatives, and a presentation of their experience as a mostly feminine research team at EGU 2016, they decided to participate in EGU 2017 by drawing short comic strips depicting the sexist situations they had faced. The comics are thanks to the drawing talent of Alice Adenis (Adenis, 2019) who had recently joined the team. Given the interest of the audience for those comics and the experiences shared by other women in other labs, they decided to continue drawing comics about real sexist situations encountered in the scientific community worldwide. The Did this really happen?! project was born. 

The core of the project consists in collecting anonymous testimonies about gender biases in the scientific community via the website, turn them into comics and make them available to the community, without any comment, to increase the level of awareness and enhance discussion about those situations. So far, more than a hundred stories have been shared by contributors and a quarter of them have been turned into comics and published on this website. The Did this really happen?! team has classified these comics into six stereotypical categories (e.g. Fig. 2):

  1. behaviours that maintain women in stereotypical feminine roles,
  2. behaviours that maintain men in stereotypical masculine roles,
  3. the questioning of the scientific skills of female researchers,
  4. situations where women have the position of an outsider, especially in informal networking contexts,
  5. the objectification of women, and
  6. the expression of neosexist views.
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Figure 2: Example of the “Questioning female competence” category. A male colleague is putting the physical appearance of his female peer ahead of her qualification while playing down her scientific competence. Comic strip title: “Professor likes blondes” (DTRH team, 2020; Adenis, 2020). All comics are hand-drawn by Alice Adenis – distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

In the article, the team, which is now spread in different universities (ETH Zurich, CEED at the University of Oslo, ENS Paris, the University of Sydney, and MIT), provides a detailed analysis of these categories and reflects on the methods they use to disseminate their work with the aim to engage more scientists in the fight against sexist behaviours in the workplace. The article is available as open-access and the supplementary material includes a booklet with a selection of comics published so far in a ready-to-print form.

So, feel free to download the article, print some comics, put them in the coffee room of your lab to discuss them with your colleagues, and contribute to the Did this really happen?! project.

Bocher, M., Ulvrova, M., Arnould, M., Coltice, N., Mallard, C., Gérault, M., and Adenis, A.: Drawing everyday sexism in academia: observations and analysis of a community-based initiative, Adv. Geosci., 53, 15–31,, 2020.

Corresponding author contact: Did this really happen?! team



Adenis, A.: Entrelacs, available at:, last access: 5 April, 2020. 

DTRH team: Did this really happen?!, available at:, last access: 5 April, 2020). 
By Maëlis Arnould
Published Apr. 7, 2020 5:08 AM - Last modified Apr. 23, 2020 6:38 AM