Yesterday was the first birthday I celebrated as Jennifer Larancuent, and not as Jennifer Turano. Leaving my old name behind and taking my husband’s name when we got married was not an obvious choice for me. My husband was surprised when I first announced that I would change my name – not because of the feministic ideals we both share, but because he knew how much that name once meant to me. Not so much because of the family it belongs to, but because of the culture it represents.
Growing up in a Swedish small-town with a Swedish mother, brother, and stepfather, that name was the only tangible link to my Latino heritage. No one could accuse me of trying to be Swedish or try to bully me because of my “otherness” when I proudly kept my father’s last name. “Latino” is the closest I have come to find to a category that could represent my mixed heritage. I don’t identify as an Argentine and I don’t identify as a Swede – growing up as a second generation immigrant, most of “us” identify more with having a transnational identity that knows no borders. Latino is so diverse, spanning over such a big area, that it is the best word to describe my cultural identity. So I held on to that name because at the time, it meant something to me.
A few weeks ago I came across this interesting article about how we just assume that the woman will take her future husband’s name when they marry, not even asking her if she will keep her own name or not. But if we really are going to acknowledge the patriarchal structures causing that assumption, shouldn’t we also ask why she would keep the name that, most likely, was her father’s? The decision to change my last name had little to do with feminism or politics, and more to do with a wish for my new family to share the same last name (when I was a kid, my mother, my brother and I all had different last names), and to rid myself of my old one. Because in the end, that last name had come to represent my father. If there has been a man in my life who has played the role of the old fashioned patriarch it was, as in most families, my father …
Many hold the view that taking the husband’s name is like reducing yourself to a thing that is being marked by its owner: “property of (insert husband’s name)”. For me, that was what it had come to feel like keeping my father’s name. Choosing my husband’s name, a name that he had chosen a few years ago for the same reasons as I had for keeping my father’s (my husband grew up having his mother’s Swedish maiden name), was just that: a choice I had made for myself, instead of keeping the name someone else had passed down to me.