Interesting. I've always thought that assigning a gender to inanimate objects was useless. This is the first reason that I've seen that shows a use. Are there other reasons?
I am procrastinating about going to work, so I decided to google it and got sent to the wiki, of course.
1 In a language with explicit inflections for gender, it is easy to express the natural gender of animate beings.
2 Grammatical gender "can be a valuable tool of disambiguation", rendering clarity about antecedents.
3 In literature, gender can be used to "animate and personify inanimate nouns".
...and goes on to describe #2 as the most useful, as you mentioned.
Among these, role 2 is probably the most important in everyday usage. Languages with gender distinction generally have fewer cases of ambiguity concerning, for example, pronominal reference. In the English phrase "a flowerbed in the garden which I maintain" only context tells us whether the relative clause (which I maintain) refers to the whole garden or just the flowerbed. In German, gender distinction prevents such ambiguity. The word for "(flower) bed" (Beet) is neuter, whereas that for "garden" (Garten) is masculine. Hence, if a neuter relative pronoun is used, the relative clause refers to "bed", and if a masculine pronoun is used, the relative clause refers to "garden". Because of this, languages with gender distinction can often use pronouns where in English a noun would have to be repeated in order to avoid confusion. It does not, however, help in cases where the words are of the same grammatical gender. (There are often several synonymous nouns of different grammatical gender to pick from to avoid this, however.)
Since the flower bed example points out what I always thought was a glaring deficiency in English, I grudgingly accept #2 as useful.
But now it's time(masc) for me(masc) to go to work(masc). No more fun(fem).