I don't know if anyone ever explored it, but I think that the show's critic of the traditional gender dynamics and its refusal to addhere to it are a rather important and interesting fact about it.
Of course, Snow White's physical physical strength (fighting ability and endurance) and pragmatism when planing a tactical move in a conflict and The Shepard's decidedly romantic and emotional approach on life could have been intended as this, but this characteristics are too common to really be surprising and have a deeper impact. Belle's line in response to Gaston's "I won't allow it !" when she volunteers to be Rumplestilskin's captive, "No one decides my fate but me !", could have this effect, but it comes after she accepts to become the prisoner of what Gaston thinks is a crual maniac who does nothing but trick people into a slow and painful death for no apparent reason and try to maintain an healthy level of homoerotic subtext. It is not a proof of what Belle later says about Gaston's shallow personality, nor an undisputable sign of the narrow-minded and egotist sexism that he showed in the movie. It is just the proof that Belle is independant and brave to a suicidal extrent and that her fiance - no matter his other traits - is afraid for her. What really attacks these stereotypes is its treatment of its antagonists Rumplestilskin and The Queen, and the way the show makes him a device for the criticism of stupid general assumptions, something which made the episode Desperate Soul hit very close to home for some viewers.
Rumplestilskin starts off as a deeply sympathetic figure, who avoids all the stupid stereotypes about men functionning as heroes in fantasy settings.
His backstory makes clear that he lacks this sense of "dreaming about dying in a violent way if it is the most admirable thing to do for my people" knights and action heroes are supposed to have, all without being unlikable or irresponsible. He was universally despised by his peers (members of a warrior culture told to be at war since what I think was a century ago) for running away from battle, but returned home to take care of his child and do his job (a significant part of his story), something his wife, who couldn't stand to live with a deserter and left, obiviously didn't do, as she seemingly abandonned their son Baelfire.
This also highlights how his initial role is different from the traditional one. He is defined as a father shown doing actual parenting and being apt at it, but is never sexualized during the episode, which contrasts the sad situation of many action heroes whose shirt just ''has'' to go before the movie hits the thirty minutes mark, while they share a shallow "romantic" plot with a side-character whose identity changes in every sequel. He also never indulges in the selfish (but so easily forgiven) tendancy that action heroes have to delegate their parental role so that their own life (or the pot) remain focused on them either: the real drive of the plot is provided by the fact that he tries to avoid the conscription of Baelfire by all means. Their father-son relationship is pleasingly devoid of the terrible "I-must-encourage-you-to-act-dumb-so-that-your-stupid-friends-will-like-you" ''cliche'', as as he doesn't count on approval (and risks to lose it when no one else dares to, despite 14 years-old getting conscripted), and encourages his son to use his head instead of his fists, a trait he himself demonstrates, and which distinguishes him from almost all the other characters.
Finally, the symbolism of his situation is highly reminiscent of an other powerful man behaving in an uncharacteristically untraditional way. A part of the Hercules mythos features the hero falling in love with an hermaphrodite and starting to behave in what was considered, in classic Greece, as a typically feminine manner. Rumplestilskin is, like Hercules, seen spining, a highly symbolic action for a ma n in traditional european society, and while Hercules begins dressing as a woman; Rumplestilskin wears gender-neutral and much less revealing clothes than those both The Huntsman and The Shephard ever wore.
The one moment when Rumplestilskin starts being morally ambiguous is when he retorts to his power and to violence to inflict sufferings of the kind he bore to other characters. He aligns himself with gender stereotypes and becomes a much creepier figure for viewers, and when he goes on to commit even more gruesome actions, he has changed outift in favor a a vaguely aristocratic and very elegant one, in which many people find his actor, the wonderful Robert Carlyle, even more attractive. Later on, his son goes, and even though he remains important for his father, he is never seen expressing his feelings about his departure before a late episode in which it is described, and he is given a love interest whom he almost makes a victim of domestic abuse, which completely makes the point about how filling the restrictive and meaningless social function he refused to choose eventually made him a ruthless manipulator.
Regina, the Queen, is similarly presented as a generous and capable tomboy, whose mother, Cora, tries to mold into the perfect gold-digger. She makes numerous efforts to shape her into someone susceptible to please the man who is at the top of their openly patriarcal society. She achieved herself a drastic improvement of her social rank, supposedly by marrying a richer man like the protagonist of the tale of Rumplestilskin, and radiates elegance and social expertise. She tries to force Regina to integrate many denigrating stereotypes about herself and the world. It doesn't work at all, because Regina is not agreeing on her mother's views about what is manly or ladylike and what isn't, and doesn't share her classicist prejudice.
Cora nevertheless uses all kinds of emotional and physical ways to coerce her into doing what she wants, be it hold herself like she wants her to, wear the dress she chose for her, or choose an arranged marriage. All these conducts are at the very least very unnatural for her daughter, who aspires to obtain freedom, and shows flawless honesty about everything but one element of the story, thus behaving on a way which contrasts with her mother's self-serving and traditional views on her gender identity, and her mother's mentoring doesn't seem to benefit her.
When Regina loses hope of obtaining what she wanted because of Cora's scheming, she resigns to a life of meaningless obedience and a marriage to Snow White's father. It lasts untill her future stepdaughter (who made it clear that she would be thrilled at the idea of having her as a stepmother, but let her try to run away to marry her true love) reveals that she is the one who has accidentally allowed Cora's plans to succeed. She justifies herself by saying that she did so because she thought Regina would lose touch with her mother if Snow White didn't help her. It is something which she wanted to avoid because, having lost hers, she thinks no one should undergo even estrangement with one's mother. Regina sees it as the proof that her actions were motivated by the desire of acquiring a maternal figure, and deduces that she willingly endangered her chances of happiness.
So, she embraces the function of mother as she sees it: a person relying on manipulation to control and use her children for her own amusement (in her case, for revenge) and adopts all of her mother's quirks with her adversaries, showing elegance, manipulation, and a taste for exerting power on her subordinates. When we meet Regina years later, she is the human and redeemable, but very stereotypical young Femme Fatale her mother had intended her to be, and she has (as of now) used manipulation to make at least four main characters do what she wants on a completely covert way her spontaneous younger self would probably not have chosen. She didn't only become her idea of a mother, but also became, partly a least, her mother's reflection, thus addhering to a twisted code of conduct when it comes to gender identity.
The idea that normative efforts towards harboring a stereotypical and gender-related attitude is somtimes eventually harmful and/or self-destructive is probably a big step from the usual "it is perfectly okay to do otherwise but our way is the best way" flavor of messages from mainstream media. It is one of the numerous reasons which make me love this show.