1 an object that one need not, cannot, or does not wish to give a specific name to: look at that metal rail thing over there
How many people have felt like a thing without a name, or a thing with a name that is not theirs? It comes from a glance as you walk into a restaurant that lingers a bit too low, the mention of your name in the third person while you’re there, the constant speak of and for “women” and “people of color” and “queer people” and “them.” After a while, you see yourself as a thing, fixed by another’s glance. Your body loses sensation; your skin becomes an insensate screen on which others dump their projections. You perform these projections because they become you. “That outfit becomes you,” someone says, and the camera in your eyes zooms out until you can no longer see your insides.
2 an inanimate material object as distinct from a living sentient being: I’m not a thing, not a work of art to be cherished.
When I complain to my friend about the violence of objectification, she says, “But we are objects.” She could have meant that we are made of objects: molecules, quarks, possibly organs if those aren’t animate. But I think she means that we are detected via our perceptual properties: how we look, sound, feel (and smell or taste in intimate settings). I argued that even if we are reducible to quarks, we are not reducible to the parts of us people ordinarily sense. We are part object, part subject. Even so, why should our object selves be our lesser halves? If you’re wondering if I’m trying to start some objects’ rights movement or something, yes, that’s exactly where I’m going with this and where several philosophers have already gone with object-oriented ontology. Stop reducing things to what we know of them, they say, and recognize their power over us.
3 an action, activity, event, thought, or utterance: she said the first thing that came into her head
– the thing came into her head without invitation and lingered without permission. When she politely dropped hints that it had overstayed its welcome, it did not care. Don’t think about a pink elephant.