Photo by Jaime Monzon

San Antonio-based punk band, Fea, encapsulates what it means to be a modern, 21st century feminist. Their music and their message refute traditional misconceptions and speaks out against societal and gender norms. Self-described as a feminist Chicana punk band with riot grrrl tendencies, Fea explores hot button topics, ranging from sexism within the music industry to the misogyny they experience being an all-female band. We spoke to singer Letty Martinez on song inspirations, stereotypes, and what it really means to be a feminist.

For Martinez, Fea was the type of band she had always wanted to be a part of. The band came to fruition before she even joined, as it was a project started by “Girl in a Coma” members Jen Alva and Phanie Diaz. From there, the band went through a few different member changes before Martinez found the opportunity to join. “I was looking to start a riot grrrl band, but when I reached out to them, they had already found a singer. She wasn’t around long, so when I saw they were looking for a new singer again I auditioned. They dug my lyrics and sound, so they called me back and here we are.”

From their name to their lyrics, Fea has been a constant voice for those fighting against important issues. Their name, the Spanish word meaning “ugly,” calls out society’s standards on beauty. Between the media and what individuals are led to believe growing up, if you don’t look a certain way or act a certain way, you are not beautiful. “We have all been called or made to feel ugly at some point by society’s standards. We understand what that feels like, and by using that word we’re taking it back and owning it.” Beyond that, their songs tackle subjects such as sexism, misogyny, and racism. Drawing from personal experiences within these topics, the group realizes how important it is to talk about these as a way to connect with those who may feel the same or may have gone through similar experiences. “A lot of what goes on in society affects us on a personal level. As a little girl I hated that boys were allowed to behave or act a certain way and girls were expected to sit quietly with their legs crossed. Growing up in a Mexican household really showed me how much misogyny is normalized. With these life experiences the riot grrrl inside of me was woken up.”

In addition to these issues, one thing the band tends to see, as well as experience themselves, are the stereotypes people tend to face when they’re categorized by who they are, and not the music they play. What tends to happen is a band get recognized not from their ability to play, but for physical characteristics, from which those can be gender, race, age, and more. This exact issue sparked the band to create the song “Girl Band,” off their 2019 album, No Novelties. After receiving an insulting comment from a man, who said they weren’t good looking, but their music was cool for a girl band, Martinez realized this is what a lot of people hear when they don’t fit within the traditional “white-male” narrative. “In a perfect world, gender or whether you identify as queer or whatever it is wouldn’t be relevant. There are a lot of shitty bands made up of guys, yet gender is never mentioned as being the reason. I’d like for that to fade out for bands.”

Speaking within this realm, Fea is known for drawing attention to feminism. Their song, Feminazi, off their self-titled album, Fea, talks of the real meaning of feminism, which is empowering women and making them equal to their counterparts, without tearing men down. The song was sparked by seeing society create a stigma against the word, and label it as something meant to bash or bring men down. “There was a trend on Facebook when that song was written. Women were posting videos with a song in the background while they’d flip these poster boards with messages about how they are not feminists. They’d say, “I am not a feminist because I’d rather be a mom and care for my family” or “I am not a feminist because I respect men.” I thought, “Wow, people are really misinformed about what feminism really means.” I wrote those lyrics to simply explain its true meaning, what it really is to be a feminist.”

Fea embodies everything it means to be an outspoken riot grrrl, while also creating a space for those who may not be represented. With this, Martinez offered some words for those who are looking for their voice within the scene. “If you aren’t being represented, then be the one to represent! That’s what we did and so many others before us as well. The only way to progress is to speak up and take action. I’m sure Fea doesn’t cover all angles, because there’s things we haven’t experienced ourselves. Just like with the riot grrrl movement and not seeing certain things when it was at its peak, I don’t fault it for not representing all of me. But it is thanks to that movement that we are making music today.”

Follow Fea on Instagram at @fea210, @fea210 on Twitter, and Fea on Facebook. You can keep up with the band here.