Tar and feathering is a form of public humiliation and punishment that has been used at various times throughout history. The practice involves covering a person in hot tar and then coating them with feathers. The tar adheres to the person’s skin, causing intense discomfort and humiliation. Feathers stick to the tar, creating a grotesque and degrading appearance.
Criticize severely, punish, as in The traditionalists often want to tar and feather those who don’t conform. This expression alludes to a former brutal punishment in which a person was smeared with tar and covered with feathers, which then stuck.