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The Princessa: Machiavelli for Women

Overview

A legacy of leadership for women only.

For centuries men have used the lessons of Machiavelli's The Prince to gain and hold power. Today's women, struggling to succeed in a man's world, must learn a crucial lesson of their own: men and women are not equal—and that is a woman's greatest strength. From the wars of intimacy to battles of public life, whether confronting bosses, competitors, or lovers, the greatest power belongs to the woman who ...

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Overview

A legacy of leadership for women only.

For centuries men have used the lessons of Machiavelli's The Prince to gain and hold power. Today's women, struggling to succeed in a man's world, must learn a crucial lesson of their own: men and women are not equal—and that is a woman's greatest strength. From the wars of intimacy to battles of public life, whether confronting bosses, competitors, or lovers, the greatest power belongs to the woman who dares to use the subtle weapons that are hers alone.

This provocative work urges women to claim what they want and deserve, offering a bold new battle plan that celebrates a woman's unique gifts: passion and intuition, sensitivity and cunning. It draws from history's legendary female divas and poets, saints and sinners, artists and activists—who, armed with a desire for justice and a spirit of outrageousness, achieved their impossible dreams. Their lasting legacy is codified in The Princessa: act like a woman, fight like a woman, and life will be yours to command.

Writing as "Machiavella, " Rubin, a longtime student of power, uncovers the Princessa's strategy for success and adapts it to women caught in the modern wars of intimacy with their bosses, clients, lovers, parents--anyone who stands between them and their desires. Size A. 160 pp. Major national print ads & 8-city author tour. 75,000 print.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Rubin's insights are brilliant in their simplicity and effectiveness...a book sure to be underlined, dog-eared, and re-read for inspiration and aid."
—USA Today

"A beautiful book, full of wisdom."
—Atlanta Business Chronicle

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Taking her cue from Machiavelli's The Prince, Rubin, founder and publisher of Doubleday's Currency business books imprint, declares that a woman can get what she wants, on the job or in personal relationships, by becoming a "princessa"a commanding presence exuding authority, both as a lover and a fighter, who wins not by copying male tactics of assertiveness and aggression but by drawing on her feminine strengths of wisdom, power-sharing and strategic maneuvering. Hillary Clinton, for example, ran into trouble by fighting like a prince, rather than using such princessa tactics as behaving "as if your enemy is your ally," or becoming "a woman who combines opposites." The advice here makes sense, although Rubin's handbook can be repetitive or can verge on self-parody: "Inanna, a Sumerian princess, was a princessa who became an expert at besting. If she were alive today, she would be the entrepreneur who wants a piece of the action," we are told. The role models provided include Russian "poet and warrior" Anna Akhmatova, George Eliot, Ayn Rand, Rosa Parks and French resister Magda Trocme, who sheltered Jewish refugees from the Nazis. Rubin occasionally falls back on clichs, but given her position in the corporate world, which provides testimony for the efficacy of the techniques she explicates here, women climbing the corporate ladder would do well to heed her guidance. (Apr.)
Library Journal
How can women achieve power? Rubin, founder of Doubleday's imprint Currency, explains the strategies, tactics, and weapons women should use to reach their goals. The main strategy is not to play by the rules but to change the game. Eighteen practical tactics are listed and explained; for example, "reduce the conflict to its bare essentials." Weapons include tears, breasts, and jewels. Rubin's ideas are illustrated using historical figures such as Joan of Arc and Gandhi. She posits that women must go after what they truly want-if they believe they are invincible, others will believe it as well-and concludes that peace is the recognition of what cannot be controlled. Unfortunately, Rubin's work is full of simplistic statements and generalizations without clarification or substantiation, e.g., "men are afraid of women." An optional purchase for large self-help collections.-Janet Clapp, Kingston P.L., Mass.
Kirkus Reviews
Rubin, who heads a business publishing imprint, tackles the subject of powerful women.

Using a couple of numbered lists, a New Age concept or two, and the poetry of Anna Akhmatova, Rubin attempts to explain to women the notion that power struggles are best solved by not struggling. In the business world, she writes, women are better served by appearing to yield to opposition, deferring to others, and subtly taking control of the situation. Much of the advice is common sense: Try to see the issue from the opposition's point of view; don't exact revenge; create a network of support. Rubin also gives many real-life examples of how women, ranging from George Eliot to Golda Meir, gained power by gracefully overcoming their enemies. Ahimsa, a Gandhian principle that advocates returning hate with love, is another technique Rubin recommends for the boardroom. Other tactics are a bit questionable, particularly Rubin's advice to women to cry if they must: It's a rare business person who would say that tears in the office are a sign of strength, and crying hardly engenders respect. A few business scenarios are offered and analyzed for their power structure, but apply mainly to women fairly far up in the corporate hierarchy—there's little here for the receptionist trying to make good.

This is a fairly interesting idea turned into a trifle of a book; the examples are uniformly vague, though Rubin's advice is well-meaning. Women truly interested in the pursuit and acquisition of power will want to seek the original Prince.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440508328
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/28/1998
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 628,357
  • Product dimensions: 5.04 (w) x 7.45 (h) x 0.42 (d)

Meet the Author

Harriet Rubin has worked in publishing for twenty years. In 1989 she founded Currency, where she has published the works of leading executives, economists, management gurus, and CEOs. She has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, and women's magazines. She lives in New York City.

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Read an Excerpt

A prince is a man among men, a canny fighter, a steely sovereign who takes what he wants out of life.  The term has been one of honor, but the feminine corollary—princess—has been a term of derision, until now.

Katherine Anne Porter said it best: "What a man did only for God, a woman did always for a man."  But now a princessa may do for herself.  I offer you this parable: Two sisters embarked on a journey.  After a long day, they finally arrived at their hotel room.  The room was adequate but not comfortable.  The younger sister was satisfied, but the older insisted they move immediately. "Each night in my life is as important as any other night," she explained to her weary sister.

A princessa, like Machiavelli's prince, is a woman among women, a canny fighter, a steely sovereign.  Take what you want out of life, and remember: Each night is as important as every other night; each day is yours for the taking.

Letter from the Machiavella I Have Become to the Reader, the Princessa of a Troubled, Embattled Domain

I have written this book for you, princessa.  Like Machiavelli's prince, you may be sitting alone somewhere safe, wanting to take control of your life, your loves, your problems—the way the young Florentine prince was desperate to take control of a kingdom run amok.  At that moment, Machiavelli appeared on the Medici palace scene to tell the prince stories and lessons of how the great Caesars and Spaniards and Popes triumphed over similar woes by fighting.

This book is about war, not the bloody kind, not the kind provoked by Caesar's hatreds or Sun Tzu's deceits or Napoleon's egomania.  It's about the wars of intimacy, where the enemy is close enough to hurt you, betray you, oppose you, whether it be a spouse, boss, client, parent, child.  It is about war as the route to power. By war, I mean conflict.  By conflict, I mean a particular kind of relationship with others, with yourself, and with the world.  Conflict is contact.  It requires power; it builds power.

In every encounter, one person always has more command over the situation than the other—and may contest you for the things you want.  If you lose, you lose your struggle to have a better, fairer, nobler, and sweeter life.  Most of us have had no way to express the fight that we keep locked up inside—all those unreached desires—except through tears of frustration or grief, anger, depression, silence, and submission—all of which can mean instant and irrecoverable losses.

I have found a way for a woman to become the artist of her anger and her desire.

The need for these skills dawned on me one night when I was sitting in the Palace Bar in San Francisco.  It was 2 a.m. The piano player had long since fled.  But my friends Nora and Judith and I weren't going anywhere, even though Nora was on deadline and Judith was trying not to think about where her lover would end up that night—with her or with someone else.  I'd promised to call D. when I got back to my hotel, but the sound of his voice was a cold shower I didn't want to feel, the voice of a man who had walked out on me the times I needed him most.  What was wrong with us, three women who trotted success around on a leash like a prizewinning dog?  Why were we scared of facing our own lives?  Why were we warriors nothing, really, but wimps?

Here we were, three formidable women, all capable of negotiating multimillion-dollar deals, but not our own raises.  Control freaks though we are, we consistently get involved in relationships where we relinquish control and end up playing the game our lovers' way.  Strong though we are, we ask for so little, and then are surprised when we get it.  Days when I walk to work in Times Square, I see sign after sign promoting LIVE GIRLS ON STAGE!  I may hate what the signs represent but can still appreciate the irony: live girls deserve to be stars; on the street, I pass droves of deadened women, their eyes blank, their expressions passive, their egos reduced by their own negative expectations.

Until now, women have had no language for the fight.  We have not been able to express our desire for power.  I knew that I wanted power, but I didn't know how to acquire it.  When I became a book editor, I found myself working with CEOs to help them craft the books that assured them of an intellectual legacy. I taught myself how to be their publisher, the businesswoman they trusted to do well by their deals and their words.  When I became their intellectual confidante, I came closer and closer to the center of what made them tick.

One highly reclusive CEO invited me into his inner chamber and asked me to analyze its passageways and corners as if I were analyzing his mind.  From their boardrooms to their emotions, I got to study a variety of business leaders and management gurus, trend setters and strategists up close.  I became the repository of their confessions, their ambitions, their fears, and so much else.  They told me how they made their fortunes.  They showed me how to take command of underlings and lieges.  Everything I learned from them taught me how to rise in the corporation.  How to thrive in a relationship. How to take what I wanted from the world.

Unless we learn to take for ourselves, we are doomed to be princessas-in-hiding forever, not governing a palace but trapped in the Palace Bar, protected by our failure.

You are going to read here about women who have won the rule of their domain. You will learn about strategies to win the wars of intimacy.  I will not let you turn away from this quest.  The cost of that would be your life, your happiness.  "If I'd known how to fight," a friend's mother once said, "I would have lived a better life."

"Learn not to be careful," the photographer Diane Arbus insisted with her students.  Careful is safe, peaceful, and on the sidelines of the action.

That night I decided to step into Machiavelli's shoes, to apply all that I had learned finally to my own benefit.

I will teach you war.

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Table of Contents

Letter from the Machiavella I Have Become to the Reader, the Princessa of a Troubled, Embattled Domain 1
The Book of Strategy
I A Princessa Discovers Her True Strength by Knowing Her Enemy 25
II What It Means to Be Feminine and the Art of Micropower 37
III How to Be Brilliantly Disruptive 40
IV Enlarge the Space in Which You Can Be Strong 47
V Femininity Is a Vast Wealth and Deserves to Be Treated as Such 51
VI How to Get People to Act in the Short Run 55
VII How to Get People to Act in the Long Run 58
VIII How One Princessa Aimed High to Meet Her Target 64
IX Tension Disarms Opponents 68
X Four Kinds of Strategic Tension 74
XI The Paradox of Power Anorexia 80
The Book of Tactics
I Besting Surpasses Winning 89
II How Besting Is Accomplished 94
III The Eighteen Tactics of the Great Warrior Princessas 98
IV The Ultimate Freedom Is Ending the Battle 121
The Book of Subtle Weapons
I How the Right Weapons Turn the War in Your Favor 129
II Know Your Shame, Love Your Power 137
III On the Use of Men as Weapons 147
IV The Polish Generalissimas' Paradigm 153
Epilogue: Strategy for a Wild Peace 157
Notes 169
Select Bibliography 179
Acknowledgments 185
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Foreword

1. Are princessas born extraordinary? Or do they become that way because of physical and psychological separation from their families?

2. In her discussion of strategy, Machiavella says that "every act contains an enemy's entire strategy." Examine highly publicized battles in light of such insight—perhaps Hillary Rodham Clinton's battle for national healthcare, Marcia Clark's battle to prove O.J. Simpson's guilt, or Anita Hill's battle to keep Justice Clarence Thomas off the Supreme Court. How does Machiavella's insight speak to these cases?

3. What can men and women do to make their young daughters princessas-in-training? Why does "prince" have positive connotations while "princess" has negative senses?

4. Do you agree with Machiavella that women have helped erect the glass ceiling that keeps them down, mistaking survival for success?

5. Machiavella speaks of "public love." Discuss its connection to power.

6. Discuss the difference between removing bad things from life and adding good things to it.

7. Think of the things you want. Are they, as Machiavella says, "the things you need"?

8. How does Machiavella's concept of "power anorexia" apply to your life or that of any women you know?

9. Discuss the ways in which sureness of judgment is a weakness.

10. Where's the difference between accepting the victim's role and using openness and vulnerability as a strength? Is there a danger of lapsing into a victim role when employing these tactics?

11. Machiavella advocated knowing and using your subtle weapons to turn the war in your favor. On the physical sidethese include clothes, hair, makeup, and tears. How have you used these in the past? Did it work? How might you use them now?

12. Have you ever cried in the office? Purposefully? Why? What was the result? Would you do it again?

13. Discuss the ways in which the author uses princessa strategies, tactics, and subtle weapons to draw you in. Did you end up agreeing with her about issues on which you disagreed in the beginning?

14. Machiavella states that men crave disempowerment and are afraid of women. Do you see this in your relationship with a boss, partner, or husband?

15. Under what conditions will princessas dominate princes? When will the opposite hold true?

16. How does Machiavella make her case against the idea or wisdom of women sabotaging women? Have you ever been on the giving or receiving end of sabotage?

17. Discuss the idea of peace coming "in the thick of things, not as an aftermath."

18. Compose a joint communique from the field and send it to the author.

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Reading Group Guide

1. Are princessas born extraordinary? Or do they become that way because of physical and psychological separation from their families?

2. In her discussion of strategy, Machiavella says that "every act contains an enemy's entire strategy." Examine highly publicized battles in light of such insight—perhaps Hillary Rodham Clinton's battle for national healthcare, Marcia Clark's battle to prove O.J. Simpson's guilt, or Anita Hill's battle to keep Justice Clarence Thomas off the Supreme Court. How does Machiavella's insight speak to these cases?

3. What can men and women do to make their young daughters princessas-in-training? Why does "prince" have positive connotations while "princess" has negative senses?

4. Do you agree with Machiavella that women have helped erect the glass ceiling that keeps them down, mistaking survival for success?

5. Machiavella speaks of "public love." Discuss its connection to power.

6. Discuss the difference between removing bad things from life and adding good things to it.

7. Think of the things you want. Are they, as Machiavella says, "the things you need"?

8. How does Machiavella's concept of "power anorexia" apply to your life or that of any women you know?

9. Discuss the ways in which sureness of judgment is a weakness.

10. Where's the difference between accepting the victim's role and using openness and vulnerability as a strength? Is there a danger of lapsing into a victim role when employing these tactics?

11. Machiavella advocated knowing and using your subtle weapons to turn the war in your favor. On the physical side these include clothes, hair, makeup, and tears. How have you used these in the past? Did it work? How might you use them now?

12. Have you ever cried in the office? Purposefully? Why? What was the result? Would you do it again?

13. Discuss the ways in which the author uses princessa strategies, tactics, and subtle weapons to draw you in. Did you end up agreeing with her about issues on which you disagreed in the beginning?

14. Machiavella states that men crave disempowerment and are afraid of women. Do you see this in your relationship with a boss, partner, or husband?

15. Under what conditions will princessas dominate princes? When will the opposite hold true?

16. How does Machiavella make her case against the idea or wisdom of women sabotaging women? Have you ever been on the giving or receiving end of sabotage?

17. Discuss the idea of peace coming "in the thick of things, not as an aftermath."

18. Compose a joint communique from the field and send it to the author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2003

    Power Anorexia

    I couldn't put this book down. I realized that all my life I had been afraid of the strengths of my femaleness -- I couldn't be powerful in the way a man can, and was taught that using my femineness to obtain power was shameful. This book changed my life.

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