Trump vs Omarosa: Why Is a Woman Who Does Something Disagreeable Dismissed as 'Crazy'? | Opinion

President Trump took to Twitter to attack his former aide, Omarosa Manigault Newman, after she released a tape recording in which the president expresses surprise at her dismissal. Worried that the "Fake News Media will be working overtime to make even Wacky Omarosa look legitimate as possible," Trump launched a verbal tirade to defend himself.

Trump wrote: "When you give a crazed, crying lowlife a break, and give her a job at the White House, I guess it just didn't work out. Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog!"

The derogatory language Trump uses to refer to Manigault Newman is, for me, deeply worrying.

As a researcher of English language and literature I am often asked 'what harm can words really do?' After all, this is not a physical attack, so is anyone really harmed by abusive words? But in our society language is a means of gaining power by persuasion and manipulation. So we must be aware of, and resist, the way Trump uses language that marginalizes and dehumanizes others in order to legitimize his own position of power.

In this case, Trump is attacking Manigault Newman, a woman of colour, with words that expose long-standing negative social attitudes towards women. These negative beliefs are sustained in our language when prominent figures, like Trump, continue to use them as terms of abuse.

First, Trump draws upon one of the longest reigning negative stereotypes of women as 'crazed.' The association of crazy behavior as a feminine trait has a long and complex history, but one factor that helped create this stereotype is that women's wombs have been linked to excessive emotional behavior since antiquity. In the writings of the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (c. 460-370 BC), for example, it is explained that women's wombs can move around inside the body causing physical illness. The word hysteria, incidentally, comes from the Greek term ὑστέρα, meaning 'womb.'

By the medieval period the belief in the wandering womb was well established, and so it continued to be treated as a physical ailment. Later in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries hysteria was treated as a psychological illness of women, rather than a physical illness. The implications of this way of thinking about women's bodies and emotional behavior is that disagreeable female behavior was attributed to hysteria, so when a woman says or does something disagreeable she is simply a crazy woman.

Trump's words also imply another longstanding, negative stereotype of women as the deceitful 'crying' woman. Trump earlier tweeted that Omarosa "begged me for a job, tears in her eyes." He paints her as one who cries to get what she wants.

The image of women feigning tears to get her own way has been present in literature for centuries. Since antiquity women were believed to be more prone to weeping, due to their wet and cold bodily nature. Aristotle writes on the bodily fluids of men and women in his text on biology, Generation of Animals, dubbing women the "weaker sex" because they do not have the heat and dryness of their male counterparts.

The stereotype that women will cry to get what they want is found in anti-feminist literature of the medieval period. For example, in The Lamentations of a thirteenth-century writer Mathieu of Boulogne, he writes at length on how wives and widows are "very good at pretending to weep" to snare men.

The deceitful crying woman was a stereotype so strongly established in the medieval period that there was a saying: "God made women to lie, cry and sew." It seems from Trump's outburst that the language used to discredit women has not changed much today.

In the past, he's also called both Kristen Stewart and Arianna Huffington 'dogs,' Rosie O'Donnell a 'fat pig,' and Alicia Machado 'Miss Piggy.'

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Omarosa Manigault, who was a contestant on the first season of Donald Trump's 'The Apprentice', appears alongside Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump during a press conference November 30, 2015. TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

What is most shocking about Trump's most recent Twitter rant is his degradation of Manigault Newman as "that dog." This turn of phrase not only subordinates Manigault Newman to the position of a servant to her master, but it also dehumanizes her by likening her to an animal.

There are no doubt sexist and racist connotations to these words. The likening of humans to animals has been linked to the language of abuse for centuries. By 1325 'dog' was a general term of abuse, and the use of animal terms as verbal abuses has since been adapted to the world of racial insult.

Research has shown that the language of male dominated societies reveals the desire to control and discipline the behavior of women. Trump's language against Manigault Newman as 'crazed,' 'wacky,' 'crying' and a 'dog' exposes the way dangerous stereotypes have penetrated our language and continue to be used as terms of abuse against women.

Politicians should lead by example by not condoning language indicative of wider social discrimination. Surely that's the least we can expect from our leaders.

Natalie Hanna is a lecturer in English at the University of Liverpool, U.K. whose teaching focuses on Middle English language and literature, Renaissance literature, and the history of English. Her research focuses on identity, gender and satire in medieval literature.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​