Perhaps the French are destined to imagine gender as something set in stone because that is the way their language is constructed. While it is true that the French have often led the world in re-thinking erstwhile inflexible ideas like sex and gender, living in France I was disappointed by how little these fresh ideas had seemed to actually take hold. We can only imagine what Simone de Beauvoir would say had she known that in 2012 the Western world would still be struggling to pay women the same wage for the same work done by their male counterparts. But my problems were not career-related, as I was principally living there to complete a master's degree in French literature. Incidentally, I completed an internship there as well with an all-female language service provider (LSP). The real problems I encountered were mostly in the streets, an anonymous setting in which people seemed to feel freer to unleash their personal anxieties and preconceptions on others.
Like French and many other languages across the world, Arabic is also very gender-marked. This makes it unsurprising that, like the French, Arabic-speaking peoples might also see the world as innately divided between two clearly defined genders, with no room for flexibility in the definition of either. Of course, language does not cause gender roles, but it could perpetuate them. . .