I am not a linguist, but I think you are confusing articles with pronouns. The former is not as powerful in communicating social norms as the latter. More to the point, descriptors for people are more powerful than descriptors for non-person objects. To suggest that language is just arbitrary (in idiosyncratic, not post-structuralist terms ), and not without ideological power is naive.
No anglo-centricity about it. Sounds like someone made a fuss about a simple change they should have accepted, and then multiple parties treated each other badly.
 Language is arbitrary in terms of signifiers always pointing to signifieds that are in fact signifiers themselves (infinitely recursive); but that means that linguistic choices about something as simple as pronouns can and should be situated in a context to understand them, and that is not without baggage. Like the time a recruiter sent a message to a local UG list I am saying her employer needed to hire "a bunch of guys quickly." It's not intent, but socially situated meaning that makes that problematic reinforcement of stereotype of consequence.