The history that we recount in this section is a summary of information culled from various web sites and Wikipedia. We are well aware that these might be problematic reference points were we doing a traditional historical analysis, but what we offer here is the history of the mall as it is told in the context of the Dixie Square Mall meme.
The Dixie Square Mall was built on an old golf course off of the Dixie Highway in Harvey, Illinois (Pleasant Family Shopping). When it held its Grand Opening in November of 1966, it was one of the first enclosed malls in the Chicago area. In addition to the anchors JC Penny and Montgomery Wards, the Mall housed 50 stores. The first few years of the Mall were very successful, so much so that an additional anchor, Turn Style, was added to the Mall, bringing the total square footage of the Mall to 800,000 (Dixie Square History).
In spite of this early success, the city of Harvey began experiencing economic decline in the 1970s, which in turn depressed the business at the Mall. In addition, crime in the area increased, and the Mall was associated with some violent events. In 1968, two men were arrested in the Mall’s parking lot for distributing pornography. Four years later, a young woman was shot and killed in her car while in route to the Mall, and she was only a few blocks away when she was shot. In 1973, a man was robbed and shot to death in the Mall parking lot. That same year, a 13-year-old girl was lured from the Mall by three other adolescent girls, who led her to a nearby abandoned apartment. There they tortured her and strangled her to death (Dixie Square History).
Because of these and other events, occupancy rates at the Mall declined significantly, and it was shuttered in 1978, a mere 12 years after it was opened. The Mall was used briefly as a temporary school, and, of course, the Mall was used to film The Blues Brothers (Labelscar). With those two exceptions, the Mall has remained abandoned, and the building has been left unsecured. In spite of the presence of a police station in close proximity, the Mall continued to be a scene of violent crime. For example, Raymond Eaves was convicted of raping and murdering Denise Shelby in the abandoned Mall in 1993; at the time of the rape, he was facing charges for raping a mentally disabled girl in the Mall three months prior (Dixie Square History). There have been many unsuccessful attempts to raze or rehab the abandoned building, but on September 23, 2010 it was reported that Harvey had obtained a $4 million federal grant to demolish the Mall (Bowean, 2010). Demolition began in February of 2012 (Rhodes, 2012).
At this point, it is important to note how the history of the Mall is conveyed in the meme. Although the Mall begins as a success, it soon turns into an unsafe place, particularly for women. The events that mark the decline of the Mall are often (although not exclusively), crimes in which women were the victims. In terms of sexual violence, the cases extend from the symbolic, when the Mall is used as a site for the distribution of pornography, to the literal, when the Mall is the scene of actual rape.
Although the Dixie Square Mall meme may be conveying actual historical events, we cannot ignore the gender dynamics of these events. As Susan Brownmiller (1975) has argued, the threat of sexual violence is a means of asserting male dominance and extending patriarchal power, and therefore it seems this history, as told by this meme, is a reassertion of this power. Women were driven from a space where they once exercised power because this space became unsafe for women. Even those cases in which sexual violation did not occur, or the crime was perpetrated by teenage girls, the crimes still portray the Mall as a space in which women were no longer safe. In the Dixie Square Mall, women’s power was displaced by violent aggression, and the rapes that occurred after its closure served to ensure that women did not return.